Irina Slavina


To address the problem of compulsive gambling, most states with commercial casinos have enacted statewide self-exclusion programs—a mechanism by which patrons petition to be physically removed from a casino if they are discovered on the premises. The casinos in the remaining states voluntarily instituted facility-based programs to assist problem gamblers in fighting their addiction.

But besides having any intended effect, these programs provided gamblers with a new ground for lawsuits—breach of contract. This note argues that neither states nor individual casinos should be liable to self-excluded patrons for breach of contract, even if they enter a casino and lose money while gambling.

First, no contract exists between the states and self-excluding gamblers because in administering the self-exclusion programs the states simply fulfill their preexisting statutory duty and, in any event, the states are shielded from such lawsuits by sovereign immunity. Likewise, casino-administered programs do not create contractual relationship due to lack of consideration. Casinos are not bargaining for their patrons to refrain from gambling. Rather, casinos are simply providing their patrons with an accommodation or social service to promote responsible gaming.

But even if the contract was established, every self-exclusion form contains an exculpatory clause that prevents any liability on the part of the states and casinos. These clauses should be enforceable as dictated by public policy. To hold otherwise would shift the main responsibility for compliance from the patron to the casino which would be counter-productive to the program's goals.