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    Sunday, April 14, 2024

    Conn. casinos will help keep problem gamblers from losing too much

    Spacing guidelines are enforced by removing seats and shutting down video slot machines Thursday, May 21, 2020, at Mohegan Sun Casino. Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods both plan limited openings June 1. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    In New Jersey, casinos are not responsible for stopping a compulsive gambler from gambling, which was reiterated in a recent court ruling.

    The same is true in Connecticut, where the federal government regulates tribally owned Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun.

    In neither state, nor in many others, do laws require a casino to stop a compulsive gambler on a serious losing streak from digging himself a bigger hole.

    “No, it’s not required, but we take (such situations) very seriously,” Jeff Hamilton, president and general manager of Mohegan Sun, said of compulsive, or problem, gambling. “Our team members are trained to recognize it.”

    News broke this week that a federal judge in New Jersey had dismissed a gambler’s lawsuit against the Borgata casino in Atlantic City and BetMGM, an online betting platform, both owned by Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International. The judge found nothing in state law requires casinos to protect their patrons from compulsive gambling.

    In the suit, the gambler said the Borgata had assigned him a “VIP” account manager who, over a seven-month period, encouraged him to continue gambling, offering numerous “gambling promotions, incentives and bonuses.”

    “During this period, Plaintiff (the gambler) placed over 100,000 online bets and gambled in excess of $24 million,” the suit says.

    Southeastern Connecticut’s casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, owned, respectively, by the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, are subject to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, or IGRA, which does not mandate responsible gaming programs, according to Monique Fontenot, public affairs specialist for the National Indian Gaming Commission.

    “However,” she wrote in an email, “many tribal-state compacts incorporate protocols to address problem gambling that include involuntary and voluntary exclusions. Although IGRA doesn’t explicitly mandate responsible gaming programs, the NIGC encourages tribes to institute best practices around good governance of their gaming operation.”

    Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun have voluntary self-exclusion programs in place, affording gamblers who recognize they have a gambling problem the opportunity to request they be barred from the casino and/or its online gaming sites. The state Department of Consumer Protection also maintains a voluntary statewide self-exclusion list.

    Links to all of the self-exclusion forms available in Connecticut as well as in neighboring states are available on the website of the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling.

    Individuals can exclude themselves from Mohegan Sun ― either the brick-and-mortar casino or its online platform, or both ― for a period of one year or five years. Foxwoods offers a five-year exclusion as well as a permanent (lifetime) ban. The state offers exclusions of one year, five years or lifetime.

    Lifetime self-exclusions cannot be rescinded.

    New Jersey has had a self-exclusion program for gamblers since 2001.

    Hamilton, the Mohegan Sun president, said he doesn’t believe there’s been a significant increase in the number of self,exclusions since the state’s 2021 legalization of sports betting and online gaming. Neither casino, however, provided any data on the number of patrons who have excluded themselves.

    Sunday’s Super Bowl is expected to generate a record level of betting, with the American Gaming Association estimating wagers on the game being played in Las Vegas will reach $23.1 billion, up from $16 billion last year.

    Hamilton said his casino enforces self exclusion through its surveillance and security teams. Anyone on a self-exclusion list discovered on the casino property is subject to arrest for trespassing and must forfeit any gambling winnings. Online gamblers who have excluded themselves can be detected if they try to place an online wager with a Momentum rewards card or a registered credit card.

    But what happens when a compulsive gambler who has not self-excluded gambles excessively or recklessly?

    “We depend on our people to recognize it,” Hamilton said. “But as with any addiction or mental illness, it’s very difficult to tell when someone needs help. We make sure they know there are resources available to them if they need help and where those resources are.”

    Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun provide information about how to gamble responsibly on their websites, as does the Department of Consumer Protection.

    If you need help with a gambling problem or know someone who does, call the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling’s helpline at 888-789-7777. The National Problem Gambling Helpline is available at 800-522-4700.

    b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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