JEFFERSON CITY — Problem gamblers who have excluded themselves from casinos could be allowed to make bets again under new rules examined Wednesday by Missouri regulators.
The proposed changes would allow people who have chosen to ban themselves for life from Missouri casinos to have that prohibition lifted after at least five years. Individuals could choose to be banned a second time but doing so would mean a lifetime prohibition. Casinos would be required to inform state regulators whether they intend to allow people who previously excluded themselves from gambling.
Missouri's self-exclusion program, developed in 1996, is designed to be a recovery tool for problem gamblers. It allows people who live in Missouri or other states to voluntarily bar themselves from casinos in Missouri. Individuals who participate can be charged with a misdemeanor for criminal trespassing if they are found in a casino in Missouri.
Making changes to Missouri's 15-year-old self-exclusion program requires a process that could last for months, and the new rules would not be effective before the end of next March. The Missouri Gaming Commission decided Wednesday to move forward with the possible changes. Public comments will be accepted from Oct. 3 to Nov. 1.
Under the proposed changes, individuals who want to remove themselves from the banned list would submit an application that includes their name, date of birth, gender, photograph and other information that identifies them. A statement explaining that the person wants to be taken off the list and accepts full responsibility for any adverse consequences would also be included.
Once the process is completed, a notice of removal would be mailed to the person.
Officials said 15,950 people are listed as having barred themselves from Missouri casinos. Of those, they said, about 7,900 people would be eligible for removal from the list if the changes were to take effect at the end of March.
Regulators said Missouri was the first state to develop a program in which gamblers can voluntarily exclude themselves from casinos. Iowa and Michigan also offer a lifetime casino ban.
Mike Winter, executive director for the Missouri Gaming Association, said the changes could prompt more people to add themselves to the self-exclusion list. He said the changes being considered in Missouri align with what other states do.
"I think the research that's out there supports looking at a smaller time frame than a lifetime ban," Winter said. "I think there may be individuals out there who may have considered the exclusion list but for the lifetime ban. Hopefully if there are folks out there who have gambling problems and need to exclude themselves, they would feel more comfortable doing it."