Downs Racing, LP – the operator of Mohegan Sun Pocono – has received a $7,500 fine by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board for violating self-exclusion list regulations.
The incident is the latest in a string of self-exclusion fines handed down by the state’s regulatory body, and illustrates once again that land-based casinos are less effective at preventing such violations than regulated online gambling sites.
The penalty stems from a single incident in which a self-excluded player was allowed by Mohegan Sun Pocono to obtain a cash advance at the casino and then participate in table games.
The self-exclusion list is vital for compulsive gamblers to prevent their own activity. PGCB rules require all licensed operators to refuse wagers from any individuals who have opted to exclude themselves from casino wagering.
The details of the state’s self-exclusion policies are as follows:
- Persons who have applied for self-exclusion request to be placed on the list for 1 or 5 years, or for the rest of their lives. Those opting for temporary self-exclusion remain on the list until the time allotment has been fulfilled, and then must complete an application process to be removed.
- Licensed facilities must refuse to accept the self-excluded person’s wagers, and will ask the person to leave the gaming floor. The person may be arrested for trespassing. Casinos cannot market to the individual or award them any gaming-related amenities.
- A self-excluded person who has gambled while on the list may not collect any winnings or recover any losses.
Unfortunately it can be difficult to fully enforce the second rule in a brick & mortar setting, as the self-excluded player could easily go unnoticed in the crowd. It’s even harder to prevent older self-excluded players from waltzing in and placing a wager, as they’ll have not been ID’d at the door.
A known problem
Mohegan Sun just had its license renewed at the previous board meeting, after an exhaustive testimonial process that resulted in unanimous approval. This punishment was levied at the very next meeting for the violation which transpired prior to the renewal evaluation.
Violations like this are not disqualifying for licensure and not very severely punished, as evidenced from the diminutive nature of the fine: Mohegan Sun Pocono grossed over $250 million in the previous fiscal year, generating more than $120 million in taxes paid to the state.
Such mistakes are also not altogether uncommon. At the same meeting last month that Downs Racing received its renewed license to operate Mohegan there were penalties meted out to both Mount Airy Casino Resort and Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin.
At various points last fall Valley Forge Casino Resort, Rivers Casino Pittsburgh, and The Meadows Racetrack and Casino all also received minor fines for self-exclusion violations. It should also be noted that these incidents were also far less common than penalties for allowing underage gamblers at tables, abuses which represented the clear majority of Pennsylvania casino violations last year. Fines for intoxicated patron incidents were also more frequent.
Downs Racing itself has had some other run-ins with the PGCB, unrelated to self-exclusion list violations. The operator has to fork over $1 million in December 2017 for two separate violations; one pertaining to its business dealings with unlicensed gaming service providers.
Players struggling with a gambling problem will find that online gambling self-exclusion protocols are far more effective, as standard online software will automatically flag players on the list, preventing the ability to log on. Realistically, the only way self-excluded players can gamble is to use someone else’s account, although in the regulated New Jersey market players can enable strong authentication security to lessen the chances of that happening as well.
NJ online gambling sites allow players to self-exclude either from all casinos or only from internet operators, and have options to self-exclude via a state website or directly through the casino software. Online casinos also provide easily accessible warning information about gambling addiction and support program information through the software interface.
In addition, NJ online casinos are required by law to support Responsible Gambling protocols, enabling gamblers to set time, deposit, and spend limits on their play. Gamblers can also opt for “cool downs,” which are temporary bans on just one site, and seen as a sort of intermediary step between setting limits and full-on self-exclusions. These protocols are not available at Pennsylvania, or any, land-based casinos in the US.
Pennsylvania players will learn just how many Responsible Gambling options are available on legal gambling sites relatively soon, as its own online rollout is expected to go live sometime later this year.