Washington to create a statewide no-play list to help gambling addicts

Slot machines

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington lawmakers are trying to step up efforts to address gambling addiction and ensure the resources are available for those in crisis.

Governor Inslee signed a bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Shelly Kloba, to help those with a gambling problem or disorder protect themselves.

Kloba says the idea is to create a way for problem gamblers to block themselves from being able to take part by establishing a sort of statewide no-play list.

“It’ll start out with just the card rooms and state lottery system, but the intent of the bill is to build a system so that someone, in a time of sort of clarity and resolve, can go to a place that is not a gambling facility — someplace neutral — and they can sign themselves up to be excluded,” Kloba explained.

Under the new law, the Washington State Gambling Commission must develop rules to establish the statewide self-exclusion network by June of 2021.

“The payout is prohibited,” Kloba said. “For instance, I might go into a casino and play a little bit. If I win — and there will be a certain monetary threshold — I’m not usually getting that just out of the machine. I have to go the cashier’s window and at that point, you present some sort of ID or whatever and if you’re on the list, then that money would be forfeited to the problem gambling account,” Kolba said, adding that account is used to fund treatment and services for those with a gambling disorder.

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​The exact system for card rooms would be determined by the WSGC during the rule making process.

Tribal casinos are sovereign, but could opt in and have expressed interest in doing so, according to Kloba. The Lottery Commission would have to develop its rules separate from card rooms and casinos, but it would include having the list at state offices where people have to claim prizes worth $600 or more. If that winner is on the list, they would have to forfeit those winnings.

The bill came in the wake of a recent report that found gambling disorder was a growing problem in Washington and that the state's current funding for problem gambling prevention and treatment programs is inadequate.

“We, as a state, bring in billions of dollars of revenue from gambling and I feel like we have a moral responsibility to make sure that that revenue is not brought in on the basis of someone’s addiction,” Kloba said. “I don’t think that’s what we’re about as a state.”

She says it’s fine for the state to bring in tax dollars on gambling that is entertainment, or just for fun, but when it becomes more than that, the state should not make money off of it.

“When it turns into something that becomes a big issue for you and your family and your financial situation, we don’t want to make money off that,” Kloba added. “I really wanted to be able to give people the help that they need. We only address a very small portion of the folks with problems with gambling in terms of support services, and this is the beginning of a way to change that.”

The state budget also included $100,000 for a Problem Gambling Task Force led by the Health Care Authority that will study the need for services, how well that need is being met, and what more the state should do to address the issue.