By CHRIS BLANK
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - People who have gambling problems can ban themselves from claiming larger Missouri Lottery jackpots under a program started Thursday.
The self-bans are voluntary and last a lifetime. People who participate will not be able to claim winnings of $600 or more and won't be allowed to access a loyalty program. Lottery officials also will remove them from mailing or promotional lists.
The Missouri Gaming Commission already lets people ban themselves from the state's casinos.
Missouri Lottery Executive Director May Scheve Reardon said the $600 figure was selected because winnings of that amount or more must be claimed at one of the lottery's four regional offices. She said there are more than 5,000 retailers statewide and that enforcing the program at each location would be impossible. The Missouri Lottery will keep a database of the self-excluded that will be checked whenever someone claims prizes at a lottery office, and those who have banned themselves won't get any money.
"As a gambling provider in Missouri, we have an obligation to our players to operate in a socially responsible manner," Reardon said. "Our hope is that those with a gambling problem will sign up for the voluntary program."
Missouri is basing its self-exclusion option after programs in Illinois, Iowa and Maryland. Enrollment requires people to sign, notarize and submit an agreement to the Missouri Lottery.
The state's casino self-exclusion program started in 1996 as a lifetime ban and in recent years was adjusted to allow participants to lift the prohibition after at least five years. People can rejoin the banned list, but it means a lifetime ban. People who have barred themselves from casinos can be charged with misdemeanor criminal trespassing if they are found in Missouri casinos.
The Gaming Commission said there are 13,800 people on the self-exclusion list for casinos, which includes 142 people who removed themselves but have rejoined the banned. Plus, 3,899 people have rescinded their bans.
Missouri Lottery Self-Exclusion Program: http://www.molottery.com/play-responsibly/self-exclusion.shtm