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Maryland looks at ending lifetime casino ban

ANNAPOLIS — The agency that oversees Maryland’s casinos is considering eliminating a program that allows gambling addictions to sign up for a lifetime ban from casinos.

The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency is planning to examine how the program is working and study changes. No timetable has been set, and any changes would have to be approved by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission, which oversees the gaming agency.

If the voluntary self-exclusion program is axed, gamblers would still be able to sign up for a two-year ban that includes counseling for problem gambling and a healthy-lifestyle program, agency Director Stephen Martino told The Capital Gazette.

He said the voluntary lifetime ban and the two-year program — which can lead to a lifetime ban if participants fail to meet requirements — are redundant.

“If they … truly need to stop gambling, signing up on the voluntary exclusion list isn’t going to solve the problem,” Martino said. “They need to reach out and receive treatment and counseling.”

Critics say that even with counseling, only having a two-year option will lead gambling addictions to temptation.

Maryland’s self-exclusion program began in 2011. There are 582 people on the list, with 55 percent choosing the two-year option and the rest opting for the lifetime ban.

In Maryland, participants agree not to enter casinos and are removed from direct marketing programs designed to entice gamblers.

If caught entering a casino, those in the program run the risk of being arrested for trespassing and fined. Since 2011, Maryland police have issued 63 violations.