Tighter system to ban problem gamblers pledged

Studies find self-exclusion at casinos easy to beat but still worthwhile

Gamblers can chose the voluntary self-exclusion program and be banned from local casinos

The province says it will step up efforts to block problem gamblers who want to be barred from B.C. casinos but complain the voluntary self-exclusion system often fails to stop them.

A pair of newly released studies confirm significant numbers of excluded gamblers sneak back in despite safeguards that include licence plate recognition systems and facial recognition software.

One-third of the 169 enrolled gamblers studied by researchers over a four-year period said they walked back in undetected to place bets.

Licence plate detectors can be beaten by gamblers who take transit instead, the findings say, while the facial recognition systems so far haven’t performed well.

“It was not very difficult to enter a casino,” according to one study led by Dr. Irwin Cohen of the B.C. Centre for Social Responsibility at the University of the Fraser Valley.

Most of the excluded gamblers who tried to go back in a casino got through every time, Cohen found, and only a minority ever reported being caught.

Five per cent of those who snuck back into casinos had done so more than 25 times.

A companion study by the Responsible Gaming Council (RGC) Centre for the Advancement of Best Practices looked at the practices at five casinos in Victoria, Kelowna, New Westminster, Vancouver and Richmond.

Voluntary self-exclusion does help, the studies found.

Sixty-five per cent never tried to go back inside a casino and 35 per cent abstained completely from gambling – even at home.

That beats the general success rate of around 10 per cent for programs like Gamblers Anonymous, the report said.

An estimated 38 per cent of self-excluded gamblers got treatment of some sort.

But both sets of findings say the program lacks teeth and calls for stiffer penalties when banned gamblers are caught coming back.

The only real consequence right now, other than being ejected, is the loss of winnings.

“This is a good step but not sufficient,” the RGC report said.

Cohen’s review suggested publicly shaming chronic violators by posting their photos near casino entrances, as retailers sometimes do with shoplifters.

He also said the BC Lottery Corp. (BCLC) could do more to remind excluded gamblers that any jackpots they win will be confiscated.

Mandatory counselling could also be tried, the study said.

BCLC is also urged to make it easier for gamblers to renew their exclusion, and perhaps to choose a lifetime ban. Gamblers so far can exclude themselves from six months to three years, but not permanently.

There are hopes an improved facial recognition system now being tested will prove more effective.

The licence plate recognition system is also being upgraded so an audible alert sounds when an excluded gambler’s vehicle arrives.

BCLC also says it will circulate shortlists of the most frequent or recent violators to all gambling venues in the region to help staff better detect high-risk patrons.

The program remains voluntary and self-directed – the corporation said it won’t bar gamblers from casinos at the request of their spouses or family members.

Eighty-three per cent of gamblers in the study listed slot machines as their gambling problem, while 61 per cent said casino card games, 33 per cent listed Internet gambling and 26 per cent said video poker in casinos.

Seventy-three per cent of the studied gamblers said they lied to family about gambling and 34 per cent said they had suicidal thoughts due to gambling.

Eight of the gamblers said they attempted suicide because of gambling, 10 attempted to harm themselves and 11 said they turned to crime.

More than 3,700 gamblers are currently self-excluded.

Public safety minister Shirley Bond said the province wants to ensure self-exclusion is as effective as possible.

“The research has already guided enhancements to our program and we remain committed to further improving what has been shown to be a very effective resource for our patrons,” added BCLC president Michael Graydon.

Several lawsuits underway claim the BCLC was negligent in failing to keep compulsive gamblers enrolled in the program from getting into local casinos and losing hundreds of thousands.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATE: Undercover video shows alleged animal abuse at Abbotsford egg farm

One employee wearing logo of Chilliwack chicken-catching company already facing abuse charges

Speed carving event on Friday and Saturday in Memorial Park

Organizers are keeping event small, physically distanced and stocked with sanitizer

Mission man who nearly died from COVID-19 at Abbotsford hospital reflects on one-month battle

Robert Billyard was in an induced coma to ensure his body would not fight the ventilator to breathe

Lavender hand sanitizer sale raises cash for Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation

Golf course and lavender farm partner up to support health care in the Fraser Valley

Hope resident wants swift action on ‘dangerous’ intersection after accident

The intersection at Old Hope Princeton Way and 6 Avenue is under provincial jurisdiction

‘Don’t kill my mom’: Ryan Reynolds calls on young British Columbians to be COVID-smart

‘Deadpool’ celebrity responds to premier’s call for social influence support

PHOTOS/VIDEO: Wings and Wheels set for weekend lift-off in Abbotsford

Fundraiser to raise money for Crystal Gala Foundation and the fight against breast cancer

Widow of slain Red Deer doctor thanks community for support ahead of vigil

Fellow doctors, members of the public will gather for a physically-distanced vigil in central Alberta

Protesters showcase massive old yellow cedar as Port Renfrew area forest blockade continues

9.5-foot-wide yellow cedar measured by Ancient Forest Alliance campaigners in Fairy Creek watershed

Taking dog feces and a jackhammer to neighbourhood dispute costs B.C. man $16,000

‘Pellegrin’s actions were motivated by malice …a vindictive, pointless, dangerous and unlawful act’

Racist stickers at Keremeos pub leaves group uneasy and angry

The ‘OK’ hand gesture is a known hate-symbol

VIDEO: World responds to B.C. girl after pandemic cancels birthday party

Dozens of cards and numerous packages were delivered to six-year-old Charlie Manning

Expected fall peak of COVID-19 in Canada could overwhelm health systems: Tam

National modelling projections released Friday show an expected peak in cases this fall

Most Read