WHAT OTHERS SAY: It's time to introduce shorter bans on gambling

Monday, December 5, 2011 | 2:38 p.m. CST; updated 4:01 p.m. CST, Monday, December 5, 2011

Sometimes, less really can be more.

We are intrigued by a proposal before the Missouri Gaming Commission that would change how officials address the problem of gambling addictions. When the commission meets Wednesday, we encourage it to adopt this new approach.

In the past 15 years, more than 16,000 people voluntarily have placed their names on a list that permanently bars them from entering any of Missouri’s 13 casinos. Gaming officials have taken pride in their willingness to make this lifetime ban available to people who struggle with impulses to gamble and knowing when to stop.

As successful as this effort has been, the commission is weighing an idea to improve it — by shortening the length of the ban to five years.

Officials have learned something over the years about addictions. While some people will struggle with their gambling demons throughout their lives, others can point to reversals and stresses in everyday living that open them up to temptations.

When their personal situation improves, these folks would like to resume their normal lives, and they believe they have the willpower and judgment to do that.

The examples offered include those going through a divorce or another particularly rough financial time. In these moments, gambling’s “quick fix” mentality can put some otherwise well-adjusted people at great risk for losing everything in a desperate effort to address their problems.

Gaming officials reasonably project if the self-imposed ban on frequenting casinos is reduced to five years, more people will see this as a viable option. The program, after all, is voluntary and should be designed to help the most people possible.

In our view, protecting more people when they are most at risk is a strong incentive for changing the program. And the ban still would be for five years.

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