Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Help gamblers get wins, but track losses too

The Morning Call
Help gamblers get wins, but track losses too
December 26, 2007
The sight and distinct sound of dozens of coins flowing from a slot machine perfectly symbolizes casino gambling. But, today most casinos have moved from a bucket of coins to paper vouchers to be cashed in upon exiting the casino. For one reason or another, gamblers sometimes leave these vouchers behind. Often, the money is ''lost.''

However, Pennsylvania last week adopted a new policy that will track the unclaimed vouchers and assist in returning them to their rightful owners. The new policy means the vouchers will be added to the state Treasury Department's list of unclaimed property. The department has long made available lists of unclaimed bank accounts, CDs and the like in hopes of owners recognizing and claiming them. And, while slots parlors have only been running for a little over a year here, this is, basically, just another way for the state to help ensure that people's money is where it belongs.

Casinos that use this system also track patrons' accounts, including losses and the overall amount of time an individual spends gambling. A former compulsive gambler turned advocate, Bill Kearney, and a few state legislators are pressing the Legislature to require the casinos to send statements of this information to gamblers' homes monthly. This measure could be of incredible value to those who frequent the casinos, and their families, sound alarms about gambling problems before they worsen. So far, a bill to require this introduced by Rep. Paul Clymer, R-Bucks, has gone nowhere. (The philosophical debate is whether the state or personal discipline, is the best way to healthy gambling.)

Certainly, the arrival of casinos in Pennsylvania has created new and trying situations in terms of how they will be managed. Allowing forgotten vouchers to be claimed is one step in the right direction.

We say the state would be wise to also require the sending of monthly statements in to help track, and curb gambling addictions and foolish spending.

Copyright © 2007, The Morning Call

Open these links to view Gov. Rendell's opinion on casinos mailing out monthly statements.

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