Among the findings:
• A significant majority of participants were satisfied with the self-exclusion program (86 percent).
• Knowledge of the program played an important role in their decision to stop gambling (77 percent).
• More than half never tried to return to a casino.
• More than one third completely abstained from gambling during the four year study.
• More than half indicated their participation in the self-exclusion program played a significant role in their decision to seek out and participate in treatment.
• Almost all participants said they would recommend the program to others (92 percent).
• Of all the known options to control their gambling, almost all said the self-exclusion program was the best available option.
Perhaps most interesting was even those who admitted attempting to breach their agreement indicated support for the program, and indicated that it was a positive experience for them.
Dr. Irwin Cohen, lead researcher for the BCCSR summarised the study by saying, "Based on their feedback, we're confident the program is serving as an important resource for people with gambling problems."
The VSE program has been under a lot of scrutiny in several jurisdictions and is subject to legal challenges on a number of fronts, so this research represents a welcome opportunity to provide factual information based on what participants and problem gambling experts say about the program.
This is not to say there isn’t room for improvement.
The study does offer several recommendations to strengthen the program, including enhancing efforts to detect attempted breaches by VSE participants. BCLC has already been taking steps to address this issue, including expanding the use of licence plate recognition technology and ongoing testing of facial recognition software. Other suggestions made by the researchers included introducing random ID checks in casinos and developing a progressive enforcement framework for people who breach their VSE agreement.
“We want to ensure that programs designed to assist [those showing signs of problem gambling] are as effective as possible," said Shirley Bond, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General.
BCLC has committed to carefully consider the study’s recommendations with input from the regulator, the Gaming Policy & Enforcement Branch, and B.C.’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, and then to implement those that make sense for VSE participants, casino patrons, and BCLC’s service partners.
Most gaming operators across Canada have devoted considerable energy to creating and supporting a strong self- exclusion program. Despite negative publicity, legal challenges and taxing behaviour by participants who aren’t taking the program seriously, this research confirms what most of us already knew from anecdotal evidence: the program works for the vast majority.
A copy of the report is available through the Media Releases section of BCLC.com.