by: NCRG Staff | Nov 14, 2013
Self-exclusion programs are a player-initiated, voluntary form of exclusion that provides gamblers with the opportunity to ban themselves from gambling venues as a tool to reduce or stop excessive gambling. New Jersey just announced that its self-exclusion program will be expanded to include gamblers who wager on the Internet. But what is known about the safety and effectiveness of self-exclusion? And, will it work for online gamblers?
Research on self-exclusion programs in land-based casinos in the United States and Canada has shown that this tool can be an effective and safe intervention. One Canadian study reported that self-excluders’ urge to gamble, the number of gambling problem symptoms and the intensity of negative consequences of gambling significantly decreased after six months (Ladouceur, Sylvain, & Gosselin, 2007).
A U.S. study revealed that most gamblers who signed up for a lifetime exclusion ban reduced their gambling and had significantly fewer gambling-related problems at follow up, with the rate of disordered gambling declining from 79 percent at enrollment to 15 percent at follow up (Nelson, Kleschinsky, LaBrie, Kaplan, & Shaffer, 2010). Self-excluders who participated in treatment for gambling problems or self-help groups after enrolling in the program had more positive outcomes than those who did not.
What’s especially intriguing about these findings is that 22 to 55 percent of the self-excluders enrolled in these studies entered casinos undetected, thereby breaching their agreement to stay away from the casino property (Ladouceur, Jacques, Giroux, Ferland, & Leblond, 2000; Ladouceur et al., 2007; Nelson et al., 2010). Yet, many of these self-excluders eventually reduced or eliminated their gambling problems. Researchers have conjectured that “it is possible that the act of self-excluding can reflect a motivation to stop gambling. In other words, those motivated to change their gambling behavior are likely more inclined to sign up for self-exclusion,” (Shaffer & Martin, 2011, p. 501). This could mean that the act of self-excluding is more important for the process of recovery than the threat of legal consequences (e.g., arrest for trespassing) common in the United States.
How do these findings apply to Internet gambling?
Many online gambling companies offer their subscribers’ the opportunity to self-limit their gambling by reducing the amount of money on deposit or closing their accounts altogether. Preliminary studies of these tools have indicated that self-limiters reduced their frequency of play, both the number of days on which they placed bets and the number of bets they placed per betting day (Nelson et al., 2008). Although the amount they wagered per bet did not change significantly, they did reduce the total amount they wagered. According to the authors of this study, these behavioral changes highlight the importance of activity level or involvement—not just money bet or lost—as a risk for gambling problems and as a target for change (Nelson et al., 2008).
For more about these and related studies, download volume 5 of the NCRG’s monograph series, titled Evaluating Self-Exclusion as an Intervention for Disordered Gambling. This compilation summarizes for a public audience the published research on self-exclusion.
Ladouceur, R., Jacques, C., Giroux, I., Ferland, F., & Leblond, J. (2000). Analysis of a casino’s self-exclusion program. Journal of Gambling Studies, 16(4), 453–460. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14634308
Ladouceur, R., Sylvain, C., & Gosselin, P. (2007). Self-exclusion program: A longitudinal evaluation study. Journal of Gambling Studies, 23(1), 85–94. doi:10.1007/s10899-006-9032-6
National Center for Responsible Gaming (Ed.). (2010). Evaluating Self-Exclusion as an Intervention for Disordered Gambling (Vols. 1-7, Vol. 5). Washington, DC: National Center for Responsible Gaming. Retrieved from http://www.ncrg.org/resources/monographs
Nelson, S. E., Kleschinsky, J. H., LaBrie, R. A., Kaplan, S., & Shaffer, H. J. (2010). One decade of self exclusion: Missouri casino self-excluders four to ten years after enrollment. Journal of Gambling Studies, 26(1), 129–144. doi:10.1007/s10899-009-9157-5
Nelson, S. E., LaPlante, D. A., Peller, A. J., Schumann, A., LaBrie, R. A., & Shaffer, H. J. (2008). Real limits in the virtual world: Self-limiting behavior of internet gamblers. Journal of Gambling Studies, 24(4), 463 – 477.
Shaffer, H. J., & Martin, R. (2011). Disordered gambling: etiology, trajectory, and clinical considerations. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 7, 483–510. doi:10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-040510-143928