Problem behavior more often elicits denial rather than admission.
But for problem gamblers who recognize the consequences of their actions, the Missouri Lottery has started offering a self-exclusion program.
Similar to a Missouri Gaming Commission program that lets gamblers ban themselves from casinos, the Lottery self-exclusion program is voluntary and lasts a lifetime.
Gambling is a twin temptation. A winning streak invites continuation and, when it turns into a losing streak, the attraction of winning it all back remains.
Gambling also may escalate into an addiction - a powerful compulsion to continue a risky activity, despite negative consequence.
"As a gambling provider in Missouri, we have an obligation to our players to operate in a socially responsible manner," said May Scheve Reardon, Lottery executive director. "Our hope is that those with a gambling problem will sign up for the voluntary program."
Under the Lottery's program, self-exclusion applies to prizes of $600 or more, which must be claimed at one of the Lottery's four regional offices. Logistics thwart extending the program to the 5,000 retailers where smaller prizes may be claimed. Self-exclusion also removes people from the Lottery's loyalty program and from mailing or promotional lists.
Will it work?
Time will tell. With the casino program, 13,800 have banned themselves. Nearly 3,900 people, however, have rescinded the ban on themselves.
The self-exclusion program is a useful tool for people who recognize they have a gambling problem.
It is not the only available tool, but problem gamblers may find it a valuable first step to change a pattern of behavior that invariably leads to unfavorable consequences.