Mounting Losses Nearly Crush Moss Point Man

Brian Hathorn looked at himself -- and his gambling habit -- in the mirror recently. The reflection startled him. Gambling "was ruining my lifestyle pretty much," he said while washing his truck.

After eight years and roughly $150,000 in losses, the Moss Point man decided working on his truck was more profitable than a day in a Mississippi casino. A few weeks ago, "I just basically just said I'm through," he said. "I threw my hands up and said I was through. I couldn't do it anymore."

Hathorn voluntarily signed up for the Mississippi Gaming Commission's self exclusion ban. On March 17, the state gaming commission sent him a letter. It detailed what self exclusion from casinos meant.

"Your picture and personal profile will be handed to each casino gaming establishment with a notice that you're to be excluded or ejected from all casino gaming establishments," the letter read.

According to the state, violating the self exclusion ban could be considered a criminal offense.

"The fear of going to jail, being prosecuted by casinos, that's enough to keep any person out, with common sense," Hathorn said. "And that's pretty much all it boils down to, you having some common sense and showing restraint."

Because of Hathorn's new found restraint, he's waxing a truck again. He bought it two weeks ago, with money that used to go into video poker machines.

Last Thursday, Good Morning America did a segment on self exclusion bans. The subject of that interview was Norma Astourian. The Michigan woman claimed the voluntary ban didn't work, because casinos in Detroit and Windsor, Canada didn't enforce it.

"They said sign this and we'll take care of you. We'll make sure you don't get in there," she said, referring to gaming agents. "But I did get in there, many, many times."

David Stewart represented the casino industry during the segment.

"The problem is it's not a police state," he told viewers. "It's not possible to control everybody that comes through there. There are thousands of people on the casino floor."

In Mississippi, casinos are required to keep a banned gambler off their properties. And they must remove that person's name from all casino mailing lists.