JEFFERSON CITY, MO. A planned three-year study should help assess whether compulsive gamblers are getting counseling under Missouri's pioneering self-banning program and how many problem gamblers still manage to get back into casinos.
The $375,000 study could provide a window into the complexities of pathological gambling, including the severity of the problems and the effectiveness of self-exclusion, said Keith Whyte, the National Council on Problem Gambling's executive director.
Each month, about 100 people decide they need help from Missouri, which lets problem gamblers ban themselves from the state's casinos for life. The list includes 3,621 self-declared gambling addicts.
Compulsive gamblers also can ban themselves from Illinois casinos, but the action must be taken boat by boat. That's likely to change when the Illinois Gaming Board votes Jan. 22 on a statewide program similar to Missouri's. Under the Illinois measure, those on the list may apply for readmission in five years with a doctor's approval.
Four or five other states have self-exclusion programs, Whyte said, and several American Indian tribes and casino companies also allow self-banning.
A person is considered a pathological gambler if his or her behavior fits into at least five of 10 categories set by the American Psychiatric Assn. Among them: a preoccupation with gambling; gambling to escape from problems; returning to recoup losses; and lying to family members to hide the extent of gambling.
A 1997 Harvard University study found that between 1.1 percent and 1.6 percent of adults in the United States and Canada met the criteria for pathological gamblers. An additional 2.8 percent are considered problem gamblers with fewer symptoms.
The study will be overseen by the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, which distributes grants to support Kansas City-area social, educational and artistic nonprofit initiatives. Bids from researchers will be sought later this winter or early next spring.
The state plans to chip in $75,000, with the rest of the money to come from casino contributions to a Kansas City Port Authority-administered compulsive gambling fund.
Gamblers' participation in the study will be voluntary and guaranteed to be anonymous.