The Iowa Lottery Board voted Tuesday to allow lottery players to self-ban themselves from winning game prizes in order to stem problem gambling.
After pondering the self-ban move for a few months, and following announcement of record Iowa Lottery sales of $210 million last year, the board felt the time was right for a self-ban, Iowa Lottery CEO Ed Stanek said.
"We want to maximize our proceeds for the state with everyone playing in moderation," Stanek said. "We don't want our success to be at the expense of problem gamblers."
The lottery game self-ban step follows a similar self-ban at Iowa riverboat casinos, which the legislature passed in 2004 in the latest gambling overhaul in the state. Iowa Lottery spokeswoman Mary Neubauer said there was no push by legislators to take the step, but said the board wanted to be responsible.
"No one has requested this of the lottery," Neubauer said. "We are not a big portion of the problem gambling issue." About 4 percent of the gamblers referred into treatment by the state gambling program cited lottery games as their main form of gambling, she said.
Stanek said no other state is believed to have a similar lottery self-ban. Neubauer said it will take a few weeks for details to be worked out, but in essence players who ban themselves out of concern over their problem lottery playing would not be able to claim prizes.
"If somebody is willing to sign this and they understand that they can't win and they can't get a refund of the products they've purchased, then what's the use in playing? Therein lies the deterrent," said lottery board member Tim Clausen, a Sioux City attorney.
The policy will allow players to sign contracts stating they are problem gamblers and want to enter into a voluntary self-exclusion agreement. The gamblers wouldn't be prevented from buying tickets, since enforcing a ban at the 3,500 Iowa Lottery retailers would be unwieldy to oversee, Stanek explained.
In the self-banning contract, the lottery players would state they want to reduce the incentive to play games by abolishing their ability to claim larger prizes at the five regional offices in Iowa. Prizes of $600 or more have to be claimed at a regional office, and a data base listing the self-banned Iowans will be searched whenever a person tries to claim a prize at the offices. The lottery would also remove the self-banned players from lottery promotion mailing lists.
Neubauer said the self-banning contracts will likely be available at the five regional offices (the Northwest Iowa office is in Storm Lake), at the Iowa Lottery Web site and at many lottery retailers in the near future.
Through the 2004 gambling legislation, the budget of the Iowa Gambling Treatment Program, which runs the 1-800-BETS-OFF hotline, was increased. Calls to the hotline skyrocketed in fiscal year 2004-05, with an increase of 43 percent more people referred to gambling treatment centers. In the year, 1,932 people were referred to treatment from the IGTP.
Since the Iowa Lottery began in 1985, more than $1.9 billion has been awarded in prizes.