By the end of May 2021, a total of 545 people in Michigan had opted out of the Disassociated Persons List since the lifting of a lifetime ban on disassociated gamblers in October last year. The numbers were announced last Tuesday by Henry Williams, the new Executive Director of the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB), in the first board meeting of the regulator under his just commenced tenure. Mr. Williams was appointed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer on April 23rd 2021 and assumed office on May 17th.
By May 31st, 625 self-excluded gamblers in the state had requested that their names be crossed off the list. Of those, 28 requests for removal were rejected either because they weren’t eligible for the removal or failed to respond to the omission letters that the commission sent. The remaining 52 applications for removed from the banned gamblers list are still under review. Further, five gamblers whose application to opt-out of the scheme was approved have since requested to exclude themselves once again.
From A Lifetime Ban to A 5-Year Break
Michigan introduced the Disassociated Persons List in 2000 after it was drafted four years prior, in 1996. As of June 1st, 2021, the state’s gaming ombudsman had added a total of 4,885 applicants to the self-exclusion list. Individuals on the list were forbidden from stepping into Greektown Casino-Hotel, MotorCity Casino Hotel, and MGM Grand Detroit for life. Any individual found violating this prohibition would have their gambling winnings seized and further faced a penalty of a $1,000 criminal trespassing fine or up to a 1-year prison sentence or both.
Endorsed by the Michigan Association on Problem Gambling, the recent amendment of this law has given gamblers the liberty to take their names out of the state’s voluntary self-exclusion list. Before Michigan adopted the new law, it was the only US state that put disassociated gamblers under a lifetime ban. Now, gamblers who have enrolled on the voluntary exclusion scheme for at least five years have the option to leave. Since the reversal of the lifetime prohibition, 11.1% of gamblers on the list have so far asked to be removed.
When the law was changed last year, Michael Burke, the Executive Director of the state’s responsible gambling advocacy group, pointed out that the new, more flexible scheme would encourage more problem gamblers to enroll themselves.
While still in office Richard S. Kalm, the former Executive Director of the MGCB, had disclosed that the regulator used to get 8-15 requests annually, of individuals asking to be taken off the lifetime ban. He had also called for a reduction of the lifetime ban to say two or five years as the restrictive rule wasn’t the best solution for everyone due to situation changes in gamblers’ lives. Mr. Kalm left his active role in April following the successful debut of online casino gaming and internet sports betting in Michigan.
It is the MGCB’s responsibility to submit the names of the excluded gamblers to the Detroit casinos, the police, and the state’s attorney general. The former MGB Executive Director had previously revealed the difficulties his team faced in enforcing the lifetime ban due to the volume of gamblers in Michigan. Moreover, the lack of facial recognition software in the Detroit casino’s premises didn’t help the situation.
Separate Safer Gambling Tool for Michigan Online Casino and Sports Betting
The 24 tribal casinos in the Wolverine State do not fall under the Disassociated Persons List. But then, it's worth noting that the Disassociated Persons List is unattached to the state’s recently unveiled Responsible Gambling Database - a self-exclusion tool of online gambling in Michigan. Under the new Responsible Gambling Database, state residents are given a chance to exclude themselves from internet gambling accounts for 12 months or five years. On top of that, online operators in Michigan also offer their separate tools for self-exclusion.
Since the launch of online casino and sports betting in the Wolverine State in January 2021, only a dozen residents have made applications for enrollment into the Responsible Gambling Database. The numbers were also disclosed last Tuesday as well by May Kay Bean, the MGCB spokesperson.