Self-Excluded Gamblers risk Jail, Fines, Bets and Winning if Caught at Maryland Casinos

Jail and Fines for violating Maryland Casino Self-ExclusionThey say admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovering from any addiction. For problem gamblers at Maryland casinos, it’s the first of many, many steps, and those who backtrack on the proverbial staircase could find themselves facing jail time, fines, plus loss of all gambling wagers and winnings.

Like most US states where casino gambling is legal, Maryland offers a self-exclusion program for problem gamblers. It’s a voluntary program, requiring the player to admit they have an addiction, fill out a lengthy form and comply with the rules therein – namely, staying out of all Maryland casinos.

The self-exclusion program allows addicts to choose whether they want to be excluded from casinos for 2 years, or for life. Choosing the 2-year program comes with an auto-renewal every 24 months, unless the individual fills out more forms to reinstate their eligibility to play at Maryland casinos, and even that requires the approving signature of a certified problem gambling counselor.

And the real kicker – if a person who’s signed up for self-exclusion at Maryland casinos is caught gambling in the state, they can be arrested for trespassing. The penalties include up to 90 days in jail and up to $500 in fines. Furthermore, any money they managed to gamble, as well as any winnings they may have incurred, are confiscated by the state and used to fund programs for problem gambling prevention and treatment.

Questions That Demand Answers

With such a strict program in place – one that’s attracted 1,207 self-excluded gamblers since it was launched in 2011 – why is it that more nearly one-fifth of all self-excluded gamblers have been caught wagering in Maryland casinos?

Perhaps the more appropriate question would be, how many of them are still gambling without being caught?

18% of Self-Excluded Gamblers Arrested

To date, 219 members of the voluntary exclusion program (18%) have been arrested for wagering at the state’s casinos.  One of the more recent incidents occurred on April, 1, 2016 at Hollywood Casino Perryville. It was no April Fool’s joke for the slots player who struck a $1,200 jackpot that day.

It wasn’t until the lucky player went to the cashier cage to cash in his $1,200 payout that he found out just how unlucky he really was. You see, a casino win of $1,200+ requires a W-2G tax form to be filled out, and entering that information resulted in the attendant discovering that the player was a member of the self-exclusion list.

Instead of handing the man $1,200 in cash, the casino called the police and had the man arrested for trespassing. All wagers placed during his time at the casino were forfeited, and the winnings confiscated.

He is just one of the 219 admitted problem gamblers who’ve suffered similar fates at Maryland casinos since joining the self-exclusion program. But there’s a clear problem that must be addressed, and that is why these gamblers are able to enter the casino and place – more often than not – thousands of dollars worth of wagers before they are caught.

Last year alone, the state generated $4 million in casino fines and wagers placed by self-excluded gamblers.

Maryland Casinos Failing to Stop Addicts

Any problem gambler who stays under the radar, never winning more than $1,200 at a time is unlikely to ever be detected by the casino.

A few months back, a man was able to collect $1,800 in cash advances from Maryland’s Horseshoe Casino – a practice that should have triggered the self-exclusion alarm as cashiers are required to cross-reference the list before issuing any money. Instead, the cashier received a reprimand for failing to do so.

In a statement from the Maryland Casino, Horseshoe officials refused to comment on any specific incidents, but did say, “We invest heavily in processes and employee training to prevent problem gamblers from playing in our casinos. These initiatives have been very successful, and these incidents demonstrate why ongoing vigilance is essential.”

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