Iowa’s Voluntary Self-Exclusion Program: A Safe Bet

Written By Sarah Pfennigs on March 11, 2022 - Last Updated on July 22, 2022

From treatment plans to risk assessment, the state of Iowa has several resources to assist individuals who struggle with compulsive gambling disorder. In fact, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) has an option that could help put a stop to the sleepless nights, dwindling funds, and relationship fallout that can occur from the addiction: Voluntary self-exclusion.

Since 2004, the IRGC has offered a program that allows participants to voluntarily ban themselves from the gaming floors of licensed casinos, racetracks, sports wagering, or fantasy sports operators in the state of Iowa.

Essentially, casino security can remove a program participant who’s found in – or wagering with – a licensed organization. In some cases, authorities can charge an individual with criminal trespassing. The violator forfeits the right to any winnings accrued during the self-exclusion.

What am I agreeing to when I enroll?

It’s important to recognize that enrolling in the IRGC’s voluntary self-exclusion is a big step toward conquering gambling addiction and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Participants need to be aware that they’ll be excluded from all casinos and racetracks licensed by the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission — including sports wagering and fantasy sports wagering — for at least five years.

Furthermore, some operators may have corporate policies that will restrict a participant from all locations, websites, or mobile applications that operate in Iowa, as well as those in other jurisdictions.

Chad Moine, Senior Vice President and General Manager of The Isle in Waterloo explains why self-exclusion can be a step in the right direction for pathological gamblers — and the casinos they frequent.

“Research has shown that self-exclusion can be an effective tool for people to reduce or eliminate the harms caused by gambling. I believe the Isle, its customers, and the gaming industry as a whole have benefited from the self-exclusion program – it helps keep gaming what it is intended for, an entertainment option.”

Four requirements of self-exclusion

There are four agreements a self-exclusion program participant must adhere to once they’ve signed:

  1. An enrollee will not gamble within a state-licensed entity. This includes casinos, racetracks, online sports wagering operators, and fantasy sports wagering operators.
  2. An enrollee will not attempt to enter the gaming floor or wagering area at a state-licensed casino or racetrack.
  3. Staff members remove anyone on a self-exclusion list and they could file criminal trespassing charges against violators.
  4. An enrollee forfeits the right to all winnings.

An individual may enroll in the program for a period of five years or for life. If an enrollee chooses five years, the state allows the self-ban to expire after five years.

However, people who choose a lifetime exclusion remain in the program for life — no exceptions.

How do I sign up for self-exclusion?

To participate in the IRGC’s voluntary self-exclusion program, an individual must complete and submit an enrollment form.  A person may enroll in any of the following ways:

  1. By mail.
  2. At the IRGC Des Moines office.
  3. In person at an Iowa Gambling Treatment Program (IGTP) agency.
  4. At any state-licensed gambling facility.

Self-exclusion isn’t just casino-based

Although many people envision casino games when it comes to “problem gambling,” the disorder extends to other outlets as well. State-run lotteries pose a risk to those suffering from addiction, as well.

The Iowa Lottery maintains a computer database. It includes the names and Social Security numbers of anyone who sign its 5-year or lifetime self-exclusion contract.

Just like the IRGC self-exclusion enrollment, lottery self-exclusion prevents participants from receiving proceeds from a win, whether it’s a tangible prize or cash. Currently, those who enroll in the Iowa Lottery’s self-exclusion program cannot collect a prize that exceeds $600 in value (in other words, a taxable win).

Also in alignment with the IRGC program, participants won’t receive tempting promotional materials.

Participants need to have the document printed, signed, and notarized. Then take the document to any Iowa Lottery regional office.

Can I enroll a family member?

Like any addiction, compulsive gambling is often coupled with intense shame and crippling anxiety. Emotional support is imperative for someone to get help. But, the individual suffering from the addiction must take the first step when it comes to recovery. Therefore, only an individual seeking help can complete an enrollment — not well-meaning friends, co-workers, or family members.

Whether your spouse, family member or friend has chosen a self-exclusion program or another form of proactive treatment, being a source of non-judgmental support goes a long way in helping someone you love in a healthier place.

If a loved one is exhibiting warning signs of a gambling disorder, consider these resources:

  • Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH)
  • Your Life Iowa
  • National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG)
  • 1-800-BETS-OFF

More: What are the warning signs?

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Sarah Pfennigs

Sarah Pfennigs is a corporate copywriter, journalist and blogger based in Arizona. Born and raised in Iowa, Sarah got her undergraduate degree in studio art. Over the last two decades, she’s created digital and print content for gaming, entertainment, culinary, hospitality, insurance, higher education and small community living. When she’s not telling someone else’s story, she’s writing her own by embracing her greatest loves: cooking, music, reading, animals, true crime, red wine, and — of course — her friends and family.

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