From the The Kansas City Star.
Date: 03/13/00 22:15
Compulsive gamblers now can reach out and get help from an unlikely source — credit card cash-advance machines at the casinos.
The Global Cash Access network, with its “QuikCash” devices in more than 1,200 U.S. casinos, will reject transactions from any cardholder that requests the company’s self-exclusion service.
I filled out a STEP (Self Transaction Exclusion Program) form using my Kansas City Star company credit card and faxed it to Global headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif. When I tried it out at local casinos a few days later, Global consistently “declined” to process my cash advance request.
Only one problem. At most casinos, Kansas City’s included, Global’s machines stand next to standard local bank ATMs.
After Global rejected me, I simply used the card’s commonplace credit/debit/ATM versatility, entered my PIN number into the bank ATM machine two steps away and drew cash against the card.
But that’s no knock on Global, which has taken an extraordinary step in doing the right thing. Other cash-service providers ought to feel the pressure and do no less.
“We’ve got a serious problem with a certain percentage of the people who gamble,” said Global CEO Kirk Sanford. “I don’t want to build a business that way. I want to turn them off my system.”
If requested, Global’s program also can instantly link troubled gamblers to hot line counseling and other help via telephone handsets built into each QuikCash machine.
In Missouri, those calls bounce straight to the state’s 1-888-BETSOFF (1-888-238-7633) hot line that provides crisis counseling and can arrange free, long-term treatment for any resident.
The National Council on Problem Gambling has endorsed Global’s initiative.
“This is exactly the kind of program that companies in the gaming industry are encouraged to undertake,” said Keith Whyte, the council’s executive director.
The card lockout applies at all 1,200 Global casino locations, including Missouri’s riverboats and Kansas’ tribal casinos. Cardholders must wait at least one year to change their status.
Although Global’s STEP program has been available for several weeks, it’s not being promoted in Missouri yet.
The Missouri Riverboat Gaming Association discussed it for the first time last week and came away lukewarm.
“The feeling was this is a good program,” said John V. Finamore, Midwest president for Station Casinos Inc. “We want to make sure we can integrate it properly with the Missouri Gaming Commission’s self-exclusion program and not cause our guests any confusion.”
If Missouri’s riverboat operators eventually do endorse Global’s initiative, promotional materials and exclusion request forms will be available at the casinos.
Until then the forms and more information can be obtained via Global’s Web site at: www.globalcashaccess.com.
Global’s machines aren’t hard to find at the casinos. They’re the shiny, jet black ones that are so expensive to use.
At the low end of cash transactions, Global’s machines at Harrah’s North Kansas City Casino & Hotel charge the most: $8.99 for advances up to $50. The same transaction at the Flamingo Hilton Casino costs $3.99.
At the high end, Global’s no-armed bandits at Station Casino and the Flamingo are the priciest: $33.99 to get $500.
Global’s machines can handle debit and ATM transactions, too, but also at premium rates. The Global machine at Station, for instance, charges $3.45 for a $20 draw.
Standard ATM machines, operated by Option Twenty Four at Kansas City’s casinos, charge a flat $1.50 to $2.50 for any transaction, plus any home bank charges.
The drawback for heavy gamblers, of course, is that bank ATMs typically cap personal account withdrawals at $300 a day.
Iowa this year almost became the first state to bar credit card cash advance machines in state-licensed gambling venues.
But a state judge recently prohibited the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission from imposing the ban at the state’s riverboats and racetracks.
Polk County District Judge Robert A. Hutchison sided with casino and track operators in the case, holding that such a ban exceeded the commission’s authority.
Hutchison went a step further and said a credit machine ban also could damage the state’s tourism industry by driving credit-worthy gamblers elsewhere, could cut into charitable and school funding from gambling revenues, and would inconvenience those casino patrons who are not problem gamblers.
Hutchison concluded that the commission failed to prove its basic argument that easy access to credit card advances are a detriment to problem gamblers.
“The fact of the matter is that the harm to others comes from legalized gambling itself, not from an absence of a (credit) ban,” the judge said.