Saturday, December 28, 2002

Indiana to list problem gamblers

Single registry would go to all casinos

The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana's top casino regulators plan to create a central database that would be more effective in helping problem gamblers who ask to be banned from the state's riverboats.

With the new database, problem gamblers wishing to be banned would make only one request that would be applied in all of the state's 10 casinos.

"We want to create a single point of contact," said Glenn Lawrence, executive director of the Indiana Gaming Commission. "We want to have a list we can then provide to the boats and hopefully even the racetracks."

An estimated 1,500 people have already requested self-evictions since Indiana first allowed casino gambling in 1995. But under the state's current system, requests typically are not relayed to the other boats that line Lake Michigan and the Ohio River.

"There are many issues," Mr. Lawrence said. "We need to look at other states and talk to professionals. We need to see how we should share information."

Research suggests that self-eviction programs can be helpful to problem gamblers, and gambling officials plan to provide self-evicted gamblers with information on finding help for the addiction.

One study found that about 80 percent of the 184 gamblers who evicted themselves from the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut between January 2000 and March 2002 had stopped gambling. Half of those who stayed away reported that they had sought professional help.

Mr. Lawrence, who took over the top spot at the casino agency last month, said the commission would likely consult with problem-gambling experts as it begins designing the system.

Mike Smith, a former state representative who now heads the Casino Association of Indiana, said the group planned to work closely with the commission.

Missouri uses a detailed procedure when gamblers apply for eviction, and customers must sign affidavits accepting responsibility for keeping themselves out of the casinos and for seeking help.

Only lifetime evictions are granted, and 4,700 people have been evicted.

Mr. Lawrence said legislation might be needed to give the commission the authority it needs.

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