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Our Opinion: Poor decision stacks odds against problem gamblers

Our Opinion: Poor decision stacks odds against problem gamblers

December 10th, 2011 in News

Gambling addicts, avoid the tantalizing temptation to roll the dice once again.

Missouri's pro-gambling panel - politely known as the Missouri Gaming Commission - is easing the exclusion for people who voluntarily have acknowledged a gambling problem.

The lifetime ban has been replaced with a five-year limit.

Among 16,148 people who decided to exclude themselves from casinos, 11,427 of them will be eligible to try again to beat the odds, simply by asking to be removed from the exclusion list.

Missouri's self-exclusion program was created in 1996 to promote recovery among gamblers who recognized they had a problem.

Shame on the Gaming Commission for inviting more than 11,000 people back into the downward spiral of addiction.

Gaming Commission Chairman Jim Mathewson offered the weak justification that "many people have indicated they aren't ready to commit to a lifetime ban but are interested in some other period of self-exclusion."

The lack of commitment is based on denial.

Recognition of a potential addiction invariably is accompanied by the hope the addiction can be reversed and normal behavior will return.

Diluting the self-exclusion rule to appease false hopes is no justification for reviving the prospect of addiction.

The simple truth is problem gamblers are among the best clients at casinos.

Both the gaming commission and the pro-gambling industry trade group - politely known as the Missouri Gaming Association - denied the decision was driven by money.

"Revenue had not one iota involvement in our discussion," claimed LeAnn McCarty, gaming commission spokeswoman.

The association distanced itself from the decision, contending it did not initiate the discussion and remained neutral.

Despite disavowals, the damage is done.

The door to relapse has been opened to thousands of problem gamblers who volunteered to close it forever.

The commission's decision is a profound disappointment.