HORTON — Ed Claycamp was disheartened a few weeks ago when he received a letter telling him his self-imposed ban from a local casino would no longer be honored.
The problem gambler had been clean for years. He wanted to stay that way. And he felt the letter was an invitation to come back to the Kickapoo Tribe's Golden Eagle Casino, located near Horton.
"Fat chance I'll ever darken their doors," Claycamp said.
The three tribal-owned casinos in the area had maintained a list of people who, in an effort to control their addiction, banned themselves from the gaming floors. If someone on the list tried to enter the premises, they were arrested for trespassing.
But the Golden Eagle Casino said that after 14 years with that policy, and hundreds of people now self-banning, the list had become unmanageable.
"It's a very, very difficult business to identify people," said general manager Steve Dole.
He said the letter wasn't a "welcome back," as Claycamp thought, but rather offered problem gamblers other options for dealing with their addiction. He said providing addicts avenues for seeking help was more effective than maintaining the list.
Dole said other casinos in the area also have had trouble handling their growing list. The Sac & Fox Casino north of Holton didn't return calls seeking its policy. But the Prairie Band Casino & Resort near Mayetta maintains a list of self-banned gamblers and said it has never considered doing away with the list.
"Absolutely not," said general manager Dave Albrecht. "It's not our intention to ruin anyone's life because of an addiction. We want to help them. We don't want to hurt them."
Claycamp's family used to joke around the holidays that it was going to be a "Harrah's holiday." Diamond tennis bracelets and gas grills were normal gifts from the casino for his business. Those gifts often ended up under the Christmas tree. The 64-year-old was such a high roller that he could get hotel rooms for himself and any guest at any time.
"They treated me like a god when I was there," he said of the Prairie Band casino formerly operated by Harrah's. "Anything I wanted, I got."
But the addiction controlled his life, he said, so on March 22, 2005 — he rattles off the date like it was his birthday — he drove to all three area casinos and banned himself.
He said his resolve has hardened to the point that the letter he received doesn't faze him, but he knows it shook others in his gamblers anonymous circle. He theorizes the casino took the step "to get any dollar in there" during the down economy.
Dole denies that. He said the Golden Eagle is doing well and wouldn't try to tempt an addict.
"Gaming establishments don't need them, don't want them and want to help them," he said.
A bill the Legislature passed a few years ago to allow state-owned casinos contains a provision allowing for self-prohibition.
Claycamp, a member of the Kansas Coalition on Problem Gambling, said he and others will meet with Golden Eagle Casino officials soon to try to change the policy.