Gaming board considers requiring ID check of all casino patrons

Springfield – Gamblers, no matter how old, eventually may have to show their driver’s licenses and have them scanned before entering Illinois casinos.

The Illinois Gaming Board is considering the card-everyone idea as a way to catch those who voluntarily have agreed to be arrested if they board one of the state’s riverboat casinos.

The board is looking for public input on the matter during a Dec. 3 meeting in Chicago, but the idea has been around since early last year, said gaming board spokesman Gene O’Shea.

Now, employees at the state’s nine boats are supposed to card everyone who appears to be younger than 30 as a way to prevent those younger than 21 from gambling.

But many people on the state’s self-exclusion list might not get carded and would be allowed to board.

Since 2002, people who believe they have compulsive gambling problems can voluntarily put themselves on an exclusion list, essentially agreeing to be arrested for trespassing if they falter and gamble anyway.

Many times, O’Shea said, the list’s members are caught at ATMs or trying to claim big jackpots when they have to identify themselves. Any money they win is confiscated and donated.

Once on the list, it’s difficult to get off. It takes an affidavit from a mental health professional that says you can gamble responsibly just to get started, and the appeal can only begin after being on the list for five years.

O’Shea said different technologies were considered to help keep self-excluded gamblers off the boats, but forcing everyone to show ID might be the best one.

„The cheapest thing is driver’s licenses,“ he said. „Everyone’s got a driver’s license or state-issued ID.

But it’s not that simple, said Tom Swoik, Illinois Casino and Gaming Association director. Carding everyone from a college student celebrating a 21st birthday to the casino’s most elderly patrons could cause problems.

„This is going to slow down the entry process,“ he said.

Swoik argued that trying to identify 5,200 people on the list among the 16 million Illinois admissions a year is inefficient, especially because many on the list may not go back.

His organization predicts the proposed policy could cost the boats an 8 percent drop in revenue.

O’Shea contends the long lines are a factor casinos can handle by simply having more employees scanning IDs.

But the competitive nature of riverboat gaming is a big worry, Swoik said, especially along the Iowa and Indiana borders, where there’s already a stiff competition for gamers. Lengthy lines or privacy concerns about ID scanning could push gamblers across the borders.

„There’s just too many other venues,“ Swoik said.

Despite the worries that gamblers will leave the state, they also apparently come in. Of the people on the self-exclusion list, about 240 are Iowa residents and about 70 are from Indiana.

There’s little to prevent someone on the Illinois list from gambling at an Iowa casino.

Gambling company Harrah’s shares that information nationwide, so someone on the Illinois list can’t gamble at any of the industry giant’s facilities in the country.

Mo Hyder, general manager of the Isle of Capri Casino in Bettendorf, Iowa, said his company does the same thing with people on the Iowa list.

But because Isle of Capri doesn’t have a riverboat in Illinois, the company doesn’t use the state’s list at its casinos nationwide.