State Police program aims to help gambling addictions

State Police program aims to help gambling addictions

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Over 10 million people in the United States have a gambling addiction problem.

The Self-Exclusion from Casino Gaming program is available to any Louisianan who believes they have a gambling problem. Sgt. James Anderson says it’s a voluntary program State Police has offered for years, and on average, two to three people in Southwest Louisiana sign up for it every week.

“Well, the first thing to know is that it’s absolutely free," Anderson said. "It’s available to anyone who feels like they may have a problem with gaming. They can visit our office in Lake Charles, or they can visit the properties, and if we have a trooper at that property, we will set that up for them. It’s a pretty simple process.”

You simply go to the Department of Public Safety, a State Police Headquarters, or a Gaming Field Office, present valid identification such as a driver’s license, passport, or military identification. State Police will then take your photo, which, along with identifying information, will be distributed to casino gaming locations across the state.

“You may not visit a casino in the state of Louisiana," Anderson said. "If you’re caught at a casino in Louisiana you can be arrested for trespassing. Bear in mind, this is something that you have voluntarily done because you’ve recognized there’s an issue that you’re trying to address, which is a good thing. We want to try to help people.”

Anderson says once you sign up, you stay on the list for at least five years.

“I say a minimum of five years because there are a couple steps beyond the five years you have to take in order for that exclusion to no longer be in effect,” Anderson said. “The first thing you have to do is go to a clinical physiologist who specializes in addictive disorders and that person has to clear you. Once you’ve been cleared by a clinical physiologist who specializes in addictive disorders, you have to petition the Louisiana State Gaming Control Board. In order for that self-exclusion to be lifted.”

Anderson says it’s not about punishing the person, it’s about helping them.

“We are not wanting to arrest people,” Anderson said. “We know they have come in for a reason. They’ve recognized there is an issue. They want to take a step in the right direction to address that issue, and we want to help them with that.”

Anderson says the program isn’t perfect.

“It doesn’t apply to video poker outlets, and it doesn’t apply to Indian casinos," Anderson said. "Indian casinos are located in sovereign nations. It’s up to that tribe as to what policies they decide to enact in terms of exclusion from their casino.”

However, he says it’s a step in the right direction to address a continuous problem in Louisiana.

If you feel like you have a gambling problem and want help, the National Council on Problem Gambling has a 24/7 hotline you can call: 1-800-522-4700.

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