Critics question efficacy of Michigan’s gambling blacklist

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Critics raised doubts about the efficacy of Michigan’s voluntary gambling blacklist. The main concern is about whether it is an effective way to prevent problematic betting or not, since many Detroit casinos do not have the capability to effectively screen banned gamblers.

More than 4600 people have opted to have themselves banned from Detroit’s casinos forever by joining Michigan’s Disassociated Persons List. Signing the list means any subsequent appearance at a Detroit casino makes an individual guilty of misdemeanor trespass. It is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1000 fine.

Gamblers that return to Detroit casinos have their winnings seized by the state and placed into a fund that goes towards problem gambling education and treatment. The state has seized more than $1 million since 2005.

Rick Kalm, executive director of the Michigan Gaming Control Board, said it’s difficult for Detroit casinos to keep self-blacklisted gamblers out. Most of the time a casino comes in contact with someone on the list “after they win the jackpot,” he said.

Michael Burke, president of the Michigan Association on Problem Gambling, said he regularly hears from disassociated gamblers who returned to Detroit casinos despite it being impossible to win. Problem gamblers are often addicted to the action of gambling more than money.

Detroit attorney Joyce Reasonover said she advises her clients against joining the voluntary blacklist. She said most individuals who sign the form are doing so under duress and without an attorney.

She suggests reforms such as creating a cooling-off period between when an individual expresses interest and joins the list. She also recommends having an attorney present on the signee’s behalf and offering counselling before an individual gets into legal trouble.

Hussein Dakhlallah, 41, joined the list after his wife grew concerned about his mounting losses, which he said totaled close to “$5,000, $6,000 a day.” “My advice for anybody: Don’t join that list. You get screwed. They know you’re going to come back. They know you’re not going to be able to quit,” Dakhlallah said. “Just say to the people — we can’t help you. Don’t make a law you can’t enforce.”