Problem gamblers would have a new option for keeping themselves out of Iowa casinos under legislation that passed the Iowa Senate last week.
Currently, gamblers can voluntarily ban themselves from casinos for life.
Under the bill, a problem gambler who earlier agreed to a lifetime ban could get back onto the gaming floor once five years have passed. The gambler would then be subject to a renewable ban every five years.
In the future addicts would have the option of either a renewable five year or a lifetime ban.
Sen. Robie Smith (R-Davenport) says behavioral health specialists believe the lifetime ban is scaring people away from taking that first step toward treatment.
“When you do that people don't want to sign up for any ban because it's forever,” Smith said, “and the whole point of this legislation was to get people to sign up and get the help they need.”
Governor Branstad vetoed similar legislation in 2013.
“Under this bill if somebody has signed up for a lifetime ban, which Governor Branstad has said is important, would be able to get off the lifetime ban after five years?” asked Sen. Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids).
“Yes, and the behavioral health specialists that deal with this are fully supportive of this bill,” Sen. Smith responded.
Smith read a statement from the Iowa Behavioral Health Association which represents gambling treatment counseling agencies.
“After much discussion we have decided to support this bill which we believe will help connect more Iowans with treatment,” wrote lobbyist Amy Campbell.
In his veto message, Branstad wrote that treatment experts consider gambling to be a lifelong addiction.
“The voluntary lifetime ban serves a valuable public purpose,” Branstad wrote.
Sen. Hogg questions sending a similar bill back to Branstad again.
“Maybe it won’t be Branstad making the decision,” Sen. Hogg said. “Maybe it will be acting Governor Reynolds.”