state launched a Self-Exclusion Program
for addicted gamblers. Will they know
when to fold'em?
state could well be Illinois biggest bookie. In fact, gambling
is big business here, and has been for quite some time.
much so that recent legislation signed by Gov. George Ryan increasing
riverboat gambling taxes will raise an estimated $134 million for
the state, according to the Illinois comptrollers office.
That money is expected to help offset a big budget shortfall.
Illinois appears to be trying to do right by its gamblers, as well.
This summer, the Illinois Gaming Board launched a Self-Exclusion
Program (I would have suggested a more marketable name, such as
the Know When to Fold Em Program, but I wasnt
consulted) that allows persons who have determined they are
problem gamblers to self-exclude themselves from all Illinois casinos.
a novel concept: Throwing yourself out of the game.
this could present a problem, especially for those unable to give
themselves the old heave-ho. According to the Illinois Institute
for Addiction Recovery based in Peoria, a compulsive gambler
is one who cannot stop gambling no matter how much they want
to or how hard they try.
it not a stretch, then, for the state to expect compulsive gamblers
to be able to exclude themselves from Illinois casinos? Apparently
not, according to Rick Zehr, vice president of addiction and behavioral
sciences at the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery, which,
by the way, receives no state or federal funds for its activities.
says this program is the states way of saying, be responsible
when it comes to gambling. The Self-Exclusion Program is totally
voluntary. A person cannot exclude a spouse or significant other.
If a self-excluded person is found including himself or herself
among the legions of Illinois gamblers, then that person must forfeit
any booty to a charity of his or her choice, preferably not one
called Back-in-My-Own-Pocket Soup and Breadline.
had gamblers in my family. There always seem to be a few euchre
games going at every family get-together, but those games are merely
the precursor to the poker games.
the poker games. Its said that as a youngster, I wandered
down into the basement during one of the Sunday afternoon games.
My grandfather, always the master no matter whose house it was,
grabbed a $1 bill out of the kitty and gave it to me. His sons,
at least eight of the nine (my father excluded, of course) protested
that the old man was taking potential earnings out of their pockets,
and a screaming match ensued. Im told I got to keep the dollar,
which I no doubt gave back to the local economies of Peoria or Alton
or East St. Louis some 40 years later.
until recently, though, did I have a chance to participate in the
family poker game. Three generations of the family were represented,
including three sons, four grandsons and one great-grandson of the
star of any poker game always has been my Uncle Pancho. Hes
loud, funny and always seems to win money. Hes worth every
wager in entertainment value alone.
is apparently also a star at the Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino in East
Peoria. He had warmed up for the recent family poker game that evening
by taking home several thousand dollars in a slot tournament that
afternoon on the riverboat, or so he said. He finished the evening
by taking several nickels, dimes and quarters from subsequent generations
of the familys menfolk.
never looked at any of my relatives as compulsive gamblers, and
Im pretty sure I know what the answer would be if I suggested
to any of them that they enroll in the states Self-Exclusion
Program: They would immediately lay odds on the over-under number
of people who actually would enroll in the program. Uncle Pancho
would win, of course.
they might be surprised at the numbers. According to Gene OShea,
acting Self-Exclusion Program director and public information officer
for the Illinois Gaming Board, the states program is modeled
after one in Missouri.
Missouri program had 37 people sign up during its first year of
operation. Since October 1, those wishing to enroll in the Illinois
Self-Exclusion Program have been able to do so at all Illinois Gaming
Board offices located at all riverboat casinos. OShea says
there were 82 people signed up through mid- October, and he expects
between 500 and 1,000 to sign up for the program in its first year.
enroll, a person must make an appointment (1-877-YOU-QUIT) to visit
a designated Illinois Gaming Board office to complete the necessary
forms. Candidates must present a valid drivers license or
state-issued identification card to complete the process. Then all
they have to do is stay away from the gambling boats.
would suggest the program offer a piece of rope so that participants
can tie themselves to lampposts outside the casinos to prevent them
from going in, but Ill wager the state wouldnt do that,
if for no other reason than to avoid the inevitable headline, Give
a man enough rope.
this point, it looks as if Illinois is providing a viable option
for those addicted to gambling. If I were betting, Id lean
toward the program being an odds-on favorite to succeed. But, just
to be sure, like any gambler, Id like a bit more of an edge.
Uncle Pancho... .
Morsch can be reached at 217-206-6521 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Issues, November 2002
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