More than a thousand potential gamblers are now banning themselves from Ohio's casinos and racinos as the state's gambling industry expands.
The Ohio Casino Control Commission's Voluntary Exclusion Program that began two years ago to help target problem gambling now includes more than 980 names, the Dayton Daily News reports. The Ohio Lottery oversees operations at the state's racinos, which feature horse racing tracks and slot machines. More than 200 names are on that list.
People can ban themselves for a year, five years or life.
The casino commission's executive director, Mark Schuler, says those violating the voluntary ban can be charged with criminal trespassing and have their gambling winnings confiscated. The casinos have conducted 83 investigations of potential violators and 78 people have been charged with trespassing, he said.
Program violators have forfeited $28,552 in winnings, with the money going to the Problem Gambling Resource Fund.
Schuler said it isn't impossible for someone on the banned list to return to a casino, but it is difficult.
"Our gaming agents at each facility are familiar with those who have enrolled and could observe them on the floor," Schuler said. "The same thing is true for the security and surveillance personnel. They have pictures of the individuals and it's their job to be familiar with them."
Experts say the program is a good step, but it probably only draws a small amount of problem gamblers.
"That's probably a fraction of the percentage of people who have gambling disorder," said Dr. Ryan Peirson, chief clinical officer for the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Montgomery County.
Maryhaven, a comprehensive behavioral health facility in Columbus, specializes in treatment for addictive illness. Bruce Jones, who coordinates Maryhaven's gambling intervention program, says the number of people seeking services there has nearly doubled since the casinos opened.
The four casinos and five racinos in Ohio are relatively new, and few statistics exist on gambling in the state. The first of Ohio's casinos and racinos opened in 2012.
Neighboring Indiana has 13 casinos and more than 5,000 members in its voluntary exclusion program, according to the newspaper. More than 6,900 people in Pennsylvania have asked to be placed on that state's self-exclusion list, and more than 3,400 people have signed up since 2001 for Michigan's program, which offers only lifetime bans.