Thursday, December 08, 2005

Lottery Program For Problem Gamblers

Problem gamblers can now ban themselves from hitting the jackpot. The Iowa Lottery Board approved a lifelong "self ban" policy on Tuesday. If players sign up, they're saying no to winning in Iowa....forever. But not everyone thinks it's a good idea.
Judd Saul is a former gambling addict and says, "Everyday you wake up and you think about it. It's a habit. It's as dangerous as drugs are." It's been four years since Judd Saul kicked his gambling problem. He's the type of person the Iowa Lottery Board hopes to reach with its new policy. The idea is to sign a contract banning yourself from future jackpots. It's a life-long ban on the big wins. Those signing the contracts would still be able to collect prize money, as long as it isn't over $600.
"Let's have somebody sign a piece of paper saying they don't win $600, but let's put slot machines in everybody's faces in every gas station in Iowa," Saul says. "This is the biggest oxymoron I've ever seen put out by a government organization, it's terrible."
Jewel Cooper is a counselor at the gambling treatment center at Allen Hospital in Waterloo. "I'm glad that they're trying to put a policy into affect to help detour the people who really have problems gambling," she says. But, she says it's only a baby step in the right direction. "Compulsive gamblers will tell you, 'I knew I wasn't going to win and if I was going to win I'd put it all back in. I was there to be in action and that's the dangerous part of this."
Iowa lottery officials say no other U.S. lottery has such a policy. The ban includes all lotto products, like instant scratch games, pull tabs, and touch play games. It's all about taking away the incentives. But the question is...will anyone sign up?
The contracts should be available on the Iowa Lottery's website in a couple of weeks. The hope is to have them in retail stores too. The signed agreements have to be notarized.
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