Many US casino gamblers get started with the pastime as soon as they hit their twenty-first birthday.
And that makes sense, because at most brick-and-mortar casinos in America, 21 is the legal minimum age to play.
While there are a number of Class II tribal casinos that accept players at 18 and up, these are not traditional casino venues. That is, they don’t offer the standard assortment of classic casino games like slots, blackjack, roulette, craps, keno, and so on.
Class II venues are typically limited to raffles, scratchers, and bingo.
That said, with the advent of legal online gambling, those aged 18 and up can safely play with overseas operators, where they can enjoy every real-money amusement on offer.
And because all modern retail casinos now host electronic slots and electronic table games, the transition of these games to the online space – for the player – is a natural one.
For most players, the online gambling experience – minus the social in-person element (and comped drinks, which don’t apply to under-21 gamblers in the first place) – is very much like what they’d get at land-based venues.
Online slots use the same software as retail digital slots, and online blackjack works the same way – and offers the same chances to win – as the blackjack terminals throughout common brick-and-mortar casinos.
The same is true for roulette, baccarat, and other popular game types.
Because of this allure, and because of the increased gambling participation of players aged 18-20, online casinos based outside of US borders have grown greatly in popularity over the last several years.
Of course, as the young adult crowd embraces casino gambling, there are movements afoot – particularly in the anti-gambling media – to scare this demographic away from the games.
That must be rejected.
We discussed a recent example last week, as a disgruntled, debt-ridden gambling addict tried to blame the UK’s most popular online casino brand for “taking advantage” of him.
That claim, of course, was bunk, but it effectively demonstrates how the industry is always under attack by fearmongers and abolitionists.
Unwise gamblers with no self-control and warped priorities are upheld as victims, while casino operators – who serve literally millions of even-keeled, entertainment-focused gambling fans each day – are framed as cartoonish villains and evil masterminds.
A similar story was posted by the Baltimore Sun today, and while it’s maddeningly vacuous and stupid and offensive to anyone with a modicum of individual agency, it’s definitely not a joke (despite its April 1 publication date).
That said, despite its obvious anti-gambling message, there are a few important takeaways that may be relevant to those just getting their gambling careers off the ground.
Now, to hear the Baltimore Sun tell it, Maryland casinos are not doing their best to deny access to patrons who have legally self-excluded themselves from gambling.
In Maryland – and in most other states – gambling self-exclusion policies are built into the legal rubric of casino operations themselves.
Effectively, if you decide you have a gambling problem, you can fill out a form, get it notarized, and submit it to the state. This form then adds your name to a list of excluded players.
Interestingly, in MD, once you’re on this list, you actually open yourself up to legal fines and even jail time if you’re caught “trespassing” on casino property.
At the same time, the casinos are obligated – somehow – to ensure that you don’t gain access to their gambling floors in the first place.
This is where people “fall” through the cracks.
Take the case of Huong Luong, a 67-year-old widow who, in 2019, put her name on the aforementioned self-exclusion list.
In 2020, after Thanksgiving, she showed up at the Live! Casino & Hotel in Hanover, MD, and spent over 12 hours playing poker.
Luong was only identified as a prohibited person by casino staff after she received a $1000 advance from the clerk on duty.
While the casino may have bypassed protocol to check her name against the state’s excluded player database the first time, the venue popped her on her request for a second advance. She was summarily arrested.
Ditto for James E. Rogers, a 42-year-old gambling addict that put himself on Maryland’s excluded gamblers list.
Some months ago, Rogers illegally entered the same Live! Casino and immediately hit a $2000 slots jackpot.
Then, naturally, he tried to cash in his winnings.
Of course, since all casinos ask for ID when players earn payouts of more than $600 (as required by IRS tax laws), Rogers was found to have been breaking the law.
His winnings we confiscated, and he was arrested for trespassing.
In all, at each individual gambling venue in MD, this happens a few dozen times each month.
The Baltimore Sun – making its only salient, cogent point – explains:
“In a typical case, the player is spotted — sometimes after spending thousands of dollars or winning four-figure jackpots — and quietly led from the glitzy casino floor to a drab hallway where police are summoned. After being charged, the gamblers usually leave through a back door.”
Now, the implications of the above are sinister, and some retail casinos certainly take advantage of that. The scenario is simple to understand, and it makes sense.
It’s scummy – and it’s likely not all that common – but it makes sense:
You are on a self-exclusion list.
You are way older than 21, so the casino staff won’t hassle you for your ID when you enter the venue. (The Baltimore Sun took issue with this kind of policy, but if you’re older than 40 and you’ve ever been ID’d for ordering a beer at the pizza house, you’ll understand why nobody supports carding every single person who comes through the door.)
You mosey up to a slot machine and crank the lever.
You do it again.
You lose again.
After you’ve lost several hundred dollars – or several thousand dollars! – you pack it up and leave.
Nobody realizes you were on the exclusion list, and the casino has made a nice profit off you.
But, as in Rogers’ case, if you win (or, even worse, if you lose consistently and then finally win back a chunk of your losses), the casino can play its trump card.
They take your winnings, and they don’t refund your losses!
But – and this is key – they don’t keep your winnings, either.
Those go to the state.
The losses you incurred separate from those winnings, however, are the casino’s to keep. Thus, retail casinos may occasionally be compelled to turn a blind eye towards the “problem” of monitoring self-excluded customers.
Again, this scenario isn’t at all commonplace, but it is possible.
So, what does that mean for you?
Well, the simple answer is that, since you’re just starting to gamble for real money, you should take every effort to not let the pastime become your fulltime.
Gambling is and always will be for entertainment only.
Are there a few people who can make a living gambling professionally? Of course there are. But most cannot and never will, so it’s an unrealistic ambition.
Do you still shoot hoops at the park even though you’ll never be on an NBA team?
So, be reasonable and have realistic expectations.
If you get into gambling because it’s entertaining, you’re in good company. That’s our approach, too.
But if you’re hitting the felts all day every day, chasing the dragon of a life-changing win as you suffer life-changing losses on after the next, you need to hang ‘em up.
That’s where self-exclusion comes into play.
But to that point, an interesting solution to the Baltimore Sun’s expressed “problem” presents itself. And even more interestingly, it’s already been employed for years:
See, all the best 18 and up online casinos, sportsbooks, and poker rooms also have self-exclusion policies.
Further, each of them uses industry-standard KYC (Know Your Customer) protocols, which means that before you’re ever paid out a penny of winnings, you have to link your account to your identity.
And once this is done, that’s your account forever.
You can’t open another account with the gambling site, and if your account is suspended or banned, there are no workarounds.
The same goes when enrolling yourself in your site’s self-exclusion program.
Once you enroll, that’s it. You can’t gamble anymore.
You can’t even log in.
And if you try to make a new account, the system flags your identity automatically, stopping you dead in your tracks.
Sure, you can sign up for some other site where you haven’t self-excluded, but once you self-exclude online with a given service provider, that service provider won’t let you back in.
Best of all, they can ensure that you stay locked out at zero expense to them. They haven’t got to lift a finger.
So, in addition to being superior to brick-and-mortar casinos in just about every respect, online casinos and gambling sites are also better about keeping self-excluded problem gamblers true to their word.
Consider all this a piece of peace of mind.
After all, you have everyone out there bleating from the rafters about how addicting and destructive gambling can be, and it might scare you away from the pastime.
But it shouldn’t be that way, because for the vast majority of players, gambling is a fun activity that – at worst – costs no more than going out to eat or going to the movies.
Chances are far better than not that you’re going to stay levelheaded and approach gambling the right way.
But if any part of you wants a backup plan that’s 100% guaranteed to work – if you want a self-exclusion policy that is fundamentally bulletproof – then skip the retail venues and join a reputable, trusted offshore gambling site.
You’ll be glad you did.
Source: Baltimore Sun