First man signs up
By Linda
Gambling addicts in Illinois now can sign up to 'blacklist' themselves from the state's nine casinos.

Bill Schwarzkopf, who once had tens of thousands of dollars in gambling debts, signed up for the new program July 2, the day after it went into effect -- becoming the first Illinoisan to join. The recovering addict says he hopes to be an example for others.

'I am an example of what can happen if you take all necessary steps to refrain from gambling,' said Schwarzkopf, 53, a financial-services company manager from Hinsdale who also is treasurer of the Illinois Council on Problem & Compulsive Gambling. 'The self-exclusion program is a wonderful, necessary step.'

Self-banned people are allowed to board the casinos, but they'll be caught automatically if they try to claim winnings of more than $1,200 on slot machines or $10,000 at table games because they'll have to fill out IRS paperwork, state officials said.

The person will be forced to leave the casino and forfeit any winnings accumulated. The money will then be turned over to an organization that helps problem gamblers, said Illinois Gaming Board spokesman Gene O'Shea.

Casinos also can pursue criminal trespass charges against self-excluders because they've agreed to stay off the premises. Doing so may serve as a deterrent, officials said.

People in the program can remove themselves from the self-ban list after five years if a mental health professional determines they are no longer addicted.

Casinos had individual rules for excluding problem gamblers until the Gaming Board launched the program July 1. The exclusion lists will remain in place, as will a hot line casinos operate to provide compulsive gambling assistance.

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