MGCB allows application to reverse self-exclusion after waiting period

Cutting The Padlock: Michigan Casino Self-Exclusion Now Reversible After Five Years

For almost 20 years, gamblers in Michigan who voluntarily self-banned themselves from the three Detroit casinos were making an all-or-nothing decision. Signing up to self-exclude was a lifetime proposition. There was quite literally no going back.

That’s no longer the case thanks to a new Michigan law, Public Act 225 of 2020. The law permits anyone who has self-excluded to ask state regulators to be removed from the list after a minimum of five years.

It’s a change some advocates for responsible gaming support, as the prior policy may have been a touch too drastic.

Self-ban from casinos no longer permanent following change

The self-exclusion list, known in Michigan as the Disassociated Persons List, was first created in 2001.

The list and the new law affecting it pertain only to the three commercial casinos in Detroit:

  • Greektown Casino Hotel
  • MGM Grand Detroit
  • Motor City Casino Hotel

The state’s 23 tribal casinos do not have a similar self-exclusion program.

By adding themselves to the list, individuals voluntarily pledge never again to visit a Detroit casino. Anyone on the list caught attempting to enter one of the casinos is subject to a $1,000 fine and/or up to one year in prison. According to the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB), as of the start of last month, 4,825 people had banned themselves from Detroit casinos.

The new law allows those who have been on the list for at least five years to ask to be removed. Those wishing to do so must complete and submit a Request for Removal Form.

The MGCB reports it received its first such request Oct. 19. The board has 30 business days to respond to requests.

Removal from the list permits individuals to return to the casinos. However, it does not require the casinos to return gaming privileges to them. In such cases, individuals will need to contact the casino directly to request to have those privileges reinstated.

New law increases likelihood problem gamblers self-banning, say some

According to some observers, the new law will make it more likely problem gamblers will add themselves to the Disassociated Persons List going forward. That’s the position of MGCB Executive Director Richard S. Kalm.

“A lifetime ban actually may deter some people from signing up,” said Kalm. “For others, their life circumstances may have changed,” he added. Kalm did acknowledge, however, there may still be risks for those who remove themselves from the list.

The MGCB’s statement about the new law included input from Michael Burke, president of the Michigan Association on Problem Gambling. Like Kalm, Burke believes the new law removes an obstacle that had prevented some gamblers from adding themselves to the list.

“The majority of our board felt the Disassociated Persons List lifetime ban in Michigan may have acted as a deterrent to gamblers who may be more likely to sign up if they have other self-exclusion options such as a two- or five-year ban available,” said Burke.

Will change to self-exclusion apply online as well?

The new law was first introduced last year by Rep. Ryan Berman. It not passed by lawmakers until September of this year, however. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer then signed the bill into law on Oct. 14.

The law does not include any provisions related to online gambling. Michigan is on the precipice of launching both online casinos and online sportsbooks within the next few weeks. All three Detroit casinos will be doing so, as will a number of the tribal casinos.

Michigan online casinos became legal in December 2019, along with sports betting and poker. As written, both HB 4311 (the Internet Gaming Act legalizing online casinos including online poker) and HB 4916 (the Sports Betting Act legalizing online sportsbooks) include language requiring operators to allow players to self-exclude themselves from the sites.

The legislation specifically requires operators to provide “both temporary and permanent self-exclusion” for all online casino games and online sports betting. Neither the bill nor the rules specify exactly what time period is meant by “temporary.”

Although Public Act 225 doesn’t apply to online gambling self-exclusion registries, it might set a precedent for those who exercise the permanent option and later change their minds. Given that Michigan online gambling is pending launch until later this month at the earliest, however, the MGCB and Michigan lawmakers have at least five years to figure that out. In the meantime, they can see whether it helps or hurts matters at the Detroit casinos.

- Martin Harris is a writer and teacher who has reported on poker, online gambling, and sports betting since the mid-2000s. Once a full-time academic (Ph.D., English), he currently teaches part-time in the American Studies program at UNC Charlotte. His book Poker & Pop Culture was published by D&B Books in 2019.
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