Gambling addicts who voluntarily sign up to be barred from the state’s casinos could opt for a five-year rather than a permanent ban if a bill that cleared the Iowa House becomes law.
Under current law, problem gamblers may sign up for a lifetime ban, but some counselors say it may be easier to get a gambler to go for the shorter, five-year-long ban. Representative Dennis Cohoon, a Democrat from Burlington, supported the move.
“It just provides individuals with an option,” Cohoon said.
The bill cleared the House Monday on a 79-19 vote. Representative Frank Wood, a Democrat from Eldridge, was a “no” vote because of a “very close” friend.
“He called me and let me know: ‘How in the hell can Iowa be taking a look at something of this nature?;'” Wood said. “His spouse has a gambling addition. After $100,000-plus in debt, something like that is very drastic in a family…This individual said he contemplated divorce, contemplated suicide.”
Wood suggested many gambling addicts will just go back and run up more debts after their five-year ban is over. The bill would allow any gambler who already has banned themselves for life from the state’s casinos to opt to go back into the casinos after five more years. Representative Mark Smith, a Democrat from Marshalltown who is a social worker, said “pathological gambling” is a serious problem in the state.
“Many times people are facing bankruptcy, problems in their relationships and concerns along those types of lines,” Smith said, “and, as a result of that, I feel that when they take the very painful step to ban themselves for life from these facilities we should respect that.”
Representative Dan Kelley, a Democrat from Newton, voted no.
“Please remember as you cast your vote,. somewhere in your district a child will go to bed hungry tonight or go to school without a coat tomorrow because a parent struggles with his or her gambling addiction,” Kelley said. “…We need to get serious about funding prevention and treatment programs and stop just messing with the regulations on this particular aspect of gambling addiction.”
Representative Linda Miller, a Republican from Bettendorf, supported the bill.
“It’s my understanding that the bill was brought for us because it actually would encourage some of the chronic gamblers to sign up, to say that they would not gamble for five years….that they would be more likely to sign up,” Miller said.
Representative Lee Hein, a Republican from Monticello, also voted for the bill.
“I think this will help encourage people to quit gambling,” Hein said.
The Senate endorsed the legislation in March on a 46-2 vote. It now goes to Governor Branstad for his approval or veto.