Iowa’s 19 state-licensed casinos are making an extra effort to reach out to customers this week as part of Responsible Gaming Education Week.

Iowa Gaming Association CEO Wes Ehrecke says the casinos have been hosting activities throughout the week. “The Responsible Gaming Education Week has always been a time over the last 18 years to focus on heightening awareness with our patrons and treatment providers and staff….that people should go to the casino for the fun and entertainment that it is intended to be and using discretionary dollars,” Ehrecke says.

A big issue being discussed this year is the change in the law on self bans from casinos. “It’s an opportunity to answer questions and get everybody sort of on the same page — kind of a learning curve here,” Ehrecke says. The new law clarifies that the ban only includes the gaming floor areas at the casinos. He says a lot of studying went into changing the law that now gives someone the option of a five-year ban — which had been limited to only a lifetime ban. Ehrecke says treatment professionals believe it may lead to more people taking advantage of it because it doesn’t last forever.

“When people maybe have the loss of a loved one, going through a divorce or loss of a job. It’s not necessarily a compulsive gambler, they just need a time out. Something that’s maybe shorter than a lifetime,” Eherecke says. “So this is giving that opportunity of a better option.” The new law began July 1st and Ehrecke says those who had banned themselves already have a chance to take another look at the issue.

“If they’ve been excluded for at least five years they would have an opportunity to be reinstated,” Ehrecke explains . “So that’s another aspect of this we’ve been trying to help educate and heighten awareness and answer questions — of which there have been plenty of in the last couple of weeks.” While this week focuses on the effort to stop problem gambling, he says casinos are working on the issue throughout the year.

“It’s absolutely important to have a focus on responsible gaming year round, and I applaud our casinos who work with respective area treatment providers. They invite them in on a periodic basis,” Ehrecke says. “Certainly this week there is a lot of attention on staff training and interaction, and just looking at signage and what can we do to improve.”

Ehrecke says there is a lot of information available on gambling and the rules in the state at the Iowa Gaming Association’s website at: