The general managers of two state-licensed casinos today asked the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to review the fines levied against casinos when people who voluntarily banned themselves are caught gambling. Riverside Casino general manager, Joe Massa, says many of those on the banned list were pushed to ban themselves by friends and relatives.
Massa says the ban list gives those families and friends a false sense of security that the problem is solved. "Until a person with any kind of addiction makes a personal commitment to rid themselves of that addiction, it’s not going to happen," Massa says. Massa says he doesn’t claim to be a psychologist, but says the mere fact that someone signs a paper to ban themselves, does not mean they’ve committed themselves to stop gambling.
Those who’re caught in casinos after signing the ban face a $200 trespassing charge, but the casinos can be fined $20,000. Massa says they spend lots of money and time trying to stop the banned gamblers from getting in, but they do slip through sometimes, and then face no big penalty for their actions.
Jesus Avilez is the general manger of the Diamond Jo Casino in Worth County. Avilez says the casinos are penalized even when they find banned gamblers and report them. The employees involved also face discipline, and he says that’s going to have a negative impact. Avilez says he worries the current approach could lead to employees withholding information to avoid the repercussions.
Alvilez says the casinos share information on banned gamblers, but he says they can’t ensure they’ll catch every one. He says they distribute the database of banned gamblers, but he says with over one million visitors at his casino alone, someone can still sneak in and gamble.
Massa says they just recently found a person on the banned list in their casino and confronted him, and things turned ugly. Massa says the man tried to lie and they showed him the picture on his banned form and the man said the picture was too fuzzy to tell it was him and he didn’t have an identification. Massa says the man then started swearing at employees before he finally left, "but he was clearly trying to renege on his own request that we ban him." Both Massa and Avilez say they don’t want banned gamblers in their establishments.
The administrator of the Racing and Gaming Commission , Jack Ketterer, says the casinos have to look at some alternatives for keeping banned gamblers out of their facilities. Ketterer says he wants the casinos to take some ownership in a solution and the commission will in turn "re-examine what our current position is."
Ketterer says the system is relatively new and they can look at potential changes. He says the legislation passed in 2004 and by the time the technology got set up, it was 2005, and they are just into the first year in establishing how to handle violations. Ketterer says it seems it is more difficult to catch some of the banned gamblers than what had been thought.
Ketterer says filing a lawsuit against the problem gambler, is not an option like it is with underage gamblers who sneak into casinos, as no county attorney in the state is willing to prosecute a suit against someone with a gambling addiction.