FUMO PROPOSES ADDITIONAL GAMBLING ADDICTION MEASURES
HARRISBURG, June 9, 2005 – Although the law legalizing slot machines has already placed Pennsylvania at the forefront in addressing compulsive gambling, state Senator Vince Fumo (D-Philadelphia) today urged the Gaming Control Board to adopt additional regulations to strengthen those efforts.
In written comments submitted to the Board, Fumo made several suggestions for changes or additions to the proposed regulations, which the Board released on May 18 while inviting public comment.
"We were very sensitive to gambling addiction when we wrote the slots legislation," said Fumo, who was one of the chief authors of the bill. "Now that we have legalized slots, those charged with the implementation have a responsibility to lessen any negative effect, and the law gave the Board that authority.
"While the Board and the public are understandably focused on things such as issuing licenses and the location of casinos, I don’t want us to lose sight of another very important aspect of gambling expansion in Pennsylvania."
Fumo recommended four regulatory amendments to the Board.
Submission of a problem gaming plan at the time of application. The proposed regulations now only require a licensee to submit a plan within 90 days after being granted a license. The plan would be intended to ensure that casino operators have a program to train employees to spot compulsive gambling behavior, and a plan to refer problem gamblers for treatment. Fumo wants to move the deadline forward.
"The substance of the regulation is commendable, but requiring the plan to be submitted at the time of application would allow the Board to weigh it against the plans of other potential licensees," Fumo said. "It would also send an important signal to the gaming industry that they must take compulsive gambling seriously, and not draw up a plan as an afterthought once they have been granted a license."
Inclusion of employee training for self-exclusion-list compliance. The slots law already requires the creation of a self-exclusion list that problem gamblers can use to have themselves barred from casinos and to avoid promotional material. Fumo wants the regulations to require an implementation plan, and a training system for casino employees, whereby they become adept at procedures for recognizing and not serving visibly intoxicated patrons and preventing them from gambling; for removing self-excluded persons from a casino; for preventing persons on the self-exclusion list from receiving promotional material or advertising; for disseminating written materials about the self-exclusion program to patrons; and for preventing persons on the self-exclusion list from receiving any complimentary services or similar benefits.
Posting compulsive gambling treatment signs and including gambling treatment information in all advertising. Fumo proposed that the Board require all casinos to post signs conspicuously at all facilities regarding treatment information, including a toll-free help number. He also suggested that regulations require all advertising materials to include information on how to obtain help for compulsive gambling. He suggested that the Board mandate specific language concerning these messages.
Prohibit certain types of check cashing or check advances. Fumo proposed the regulations include limits on casinos’ ability to cash checks. Under his proposal, a casino or any entity acting on its behalf would not be allowed to cash personal, Social Security, unemployment, disability, public assistance, or payroll checks from any person participating in gambling. They would only be permitted to accept cashiers checks, money orders, wire transfers, travelers checks or other cash equivalents.
"These restrictions serve two important public policy objectives – limiting the extension of credit or non-cash equivalents to gaming patrons, and the strict monitoring of casino revenues," Fumo wrote in his comments to the Board.
Each of the four amendments suggested by Fumo parallel regulations that have been successfully implemented in other states.
Fumo noted that according to the National Council on Problem Gambling, one percent of gamblers meet the criteria for pathological gambling, and an additional two-three percent can be categorized as problem gamblers.
Recognizing this, Fumo pressed for several measures that were included in Act 71, the law enacted in July 2004 that legalized slot machines at 14 locations in the state. Those measures:
Prohibit the extension of credit or the use of debit cards for gambling;
Prohibit wagering on amateur of professional athletic events at licensed slots facilities;
Establish a fund for addictive gambling treatment that will be the second largest in the country – a minimum of $1.5 million annually, or 0.1 percent of gross terminal revenue, whichever is greater. (If gross terminal revenue reaches the expected $3 billion annually, that would produce $3 million for the fund.)
Authorize the Board to regulate the number and placement of ATM machines in slots facilities.
Establish a self-exclusion program, whereby gamblers can voluntary put themselves on a list to be barred from casinos and not receive advertising and promotional material;
Require the placement of problem gambling treatment signs within casinos.
"While each of these provisions in the Act serve the important function of mitigating negative social consequences of the legalization of slot machines in the Commonwealth, the Board’s responsibility to protect the public is not limited to these particular functions. Rather, these are minimal safeguards," Fumo said in his comments submitted to the Board.
He went on to say that it is consistent with the purpose and intent of the law for the Board to add additional regulations regarding problem gambling.
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