A gambling addiction is no different than an addiction to illegal substances like cocaine or heroin. In fact, the notion of risk and reward will cause a compulsive gambler to experience a surge of endorphins that flood his nucleus accumbens (mid-brain) with a neurotransmitter called dopamine. This neurotransmitter causes a temporary euphoric high that when dissipates, creates a powerful let-down.
The euphoric high can be so powerful that it can influence the gambling addict to eclipse obligatory commitments to both family and work. One behavioral economist called this hyperactive dopamine response a "hijacking of the brain." And with some gamblers, they must take medications to suppress their urges.
Recently in Nevada, legislators passed a law that permits state judges to put criminals with gambling addictions into treatment centers rather than to prison. The promulgation of such law suggests that an addiction to gambling is a neurological disease that can compel an individual, under certain circumstances, to become a criminal.
Casinos understand the problem of gambling addiction. They provide ways for the compulsive gambler to enact a "self-ban", which is a written contract between the gambler and the casino prohibiting the gambler's return. And although this is helpful to the family and loved ones of the gambler, it simply is not enough.
For instance, Milwaukee's Potawatomi Casino's rules and regulations state that self-bans have a minimum duration of 12 months. Their banning process is meant to be an embarrassment to the guest. A security guard told me that they intentionally embarrass the gambler during the banning process so he will consider what might happen if he were to un-ban himself in the future.
This is a lie. Potawatomi doesn't embarrass the compulsive gambler so he won't "un-ban" himself. Potawatomi makes the process embarrassing to keep the gambler from banning himself in the first place.
Potawatomi's banning process involves signing a contract, taking a photo id, and being escorted off the premises by security. They take your picture out in the open so everyone can see, which takes longer than it should. They announce your self-banning process over their radios and speakers to draw attention to the guest. And they escort you out of the building while talking continuously over the radio so other guests know what's going on. The process is embarrassing.
Potawatomi's un-banning process simply involves writing a letter to the casino to lift the ban. That's it. The guest doesn't have to show up and hand-deliver the letter, or go through any embarrassing steps in front of other guests. In other words, it is harder to ban yourself once you are a guest of Potawatomi than it is to un-ban yourself as a guest with a known gambling problem. It makes no sense to me, ethically speaking, why Potawatomi would punish a guest for doing the noble thing and taking ownership of his life, and yet show hospitality and receptiveness to an individual when he un-bans himself.
More laws need to be put in place that protect compulsive gamblers from themselves. In some states, Casinos are held liable if they willingly court a compulsive gambler to return to the casino, but this is not enough. Wisconsin legislators should pass a law the extends the 12 month ban policy of casinos into a minimum of 36 months or even indefinitely.
Considering that compulsive gambling has the effect of destroying the continuity of marriages and families, a 12 month ban simply doesn't give the gambler enough time for rehabilitation, nor does it give the family enough time to repair what was broken via financial losses and psychological affliction. The last thing spouses and children need to worry about when restoring their family unit is taking their loved one to a local casino every year to reinstate a self-ban.