Self-exclusion is a policy enacted by individual casinos or governments as a means of helping an addicted gambler stop or quit gambling. An addicted gambler must voluntarily request to have their name added to the self-exclusion list.
Once their request has been approved, those on the list are legally banned from entering any casinos within the exclusion area that has participated in this policy for any given amount of time–3 weeks, or 6 months max. Should they attempt to enter or enter a casino, legal action for trespassing can be taken against them, and any winnings, chips, tokens or credits in their possession at the time can be taken away from them.
Self-exclusion has always taken place in physical casinos, but as technology becomes increasingly sophisticated and accessible, problem gamblers now have an alternative to gamble by appearing on online gambling websites. Online gambling self-exclusion is offered in various countries such as Australia, UK, US, South Africa, etc.
This technique of addressing problem gambling has been in use for decades, on the premise that voluntary abstaining is enforced by external punishments to deter those from breaching their self-exclusion agreements within the given period.
In the UK, non-profit organisation Gamstop is such an example where it allows members to submit their details and select their intended self-exclusion period which remains in place unless instructions are given to remove the ban.
It relies upon personal discipline on an individual to enforce the practice, which is one of many factors leading many to question the validity of this practice. While there are no sanctioning bodies on the matter of self-exclusion, many casinos and governments have introduced self-exclusion options for their patrons, as well as numerous help centres across various countries in Europe dedicated to the cause. Effective self-exclusion requires the individual to acknowledge there is an issue and that self-exclusion is a partnership” – Malcolm George, CEO, Association of British Bookmakers
While self-exclusion is an easily available option for many problem gamblers in the West, it might not be as widely available or extensive in Malaysia.
Gambling is entrenched in Malaysia’s culture, recreationally and festively. And because of that, the idea of self-exclusion may not sit as well initially, but it is an avenue of recourse in an already sparse and lacking infrastructure for rehabilitation. This means that for self-exclusion to work effectively, there must be both an internal motivation and external support for the addicted gambler to see long-lasting improvements.
Because of this sparse infrastructure, self-exclusion is a difficult practice, as the responsibility lies solely on the problem gambler, which could undermine any of their efforts to recover on their own.
It presents an opportunity for rehabilitation yet ironically receives no structured measures in overcoming their addiction problems. We’ll explore the upsides of self-exclusion, its pros and cons and what it can offer along the way.
Self-exclusion intends to lessen addictive tendencies within problem gamblers by introducing external barriers towards behaviours or tendencies that will lead to problematic gambling. The upside being that problem gamblers now have a way of making a change towards their damaging habits by reducing their contact with items that may trigger the desire of gambling.
It is also a preventive measure that ensures an addicted gambler does not do further financial damage to themselves in the future, by acting as a coping support mechanism should their condition spiral out of control. Through the help of in-counselling, counsellors can better understand whether the measure of self-exclusion is working effectively for the addicted gambler.
“Self-exclusion has an important role to play in reducing harm and offering problem gamblers a step towards change” – Stella Dalton, Head of Education & Prevention, Gamcare
Self-exclusion also brings a bigger benefit of raising awareness towards the plight of addicted gamblers through the licence conditions and codes of practice strengthening social responsibility and player protection, as more organisations implement multi self-exclusion schemes with the advancement of online technologies.
Despite its appealing premise for addicted gamblers, there are some doubts as to whether it can really fulfil its duty.
Firstly, the presence of online casino games could be an easy alternative to getting round the ban against entering a casino by going on an online gaming site. As these online game rooms are easily accessible through smartphones and tablets.
Also, self-exclusion measures are typically perceived as a front for public relations rather than a tangible solution. And when self-enforcement is lacking – when there is no acceptance of self-responsibility – said gamblers might go back to their old ways.
Another notion that makes addicted gamblers reluctant to adopt self-exclusion is the fear of embarrassment from asking for help and the impact on their social life – whereby registering for a self-exclusion program implies that the person has an open problem with gambling – and the associated stigma which may come along with it.
The last drawback of self-exclusion is difficult enforcement. Currently many measures put in place by various casinos and governments can be bypassed with simple measures. One example for this is when barred individuals are still returning to casinos despite facial recognition technology being put in place.
In an environment where many individuals face problem gambling, seeking treatment can be a tall order as they will encounter various obstacles ranging from their level of discipline, acknowledgement of their problem gambling, social stigma, sparse support infrastructure, and various other setbacks.
To make self-exclusion an effective measure, the addicted gambler must first acknowledge his issue and seek out the support that they need – whether through friends and family, or with the help of out-patient counselling organisations.
With the notion of responsible gaming, i8 gives members the option to set their own wager limits in terms of the deposit amount, i.e. limiting their losses to prevent them from compounding their problem.
As a means of seeking gambling addiction help, a more holistic approach to self-exclusion could involve both the addicted gambler’s acknowledgement that there is an issue with their gambling, and the support of family, friends or professional support services.