A Sudbury woman says a program designed to help problem gamblers isn’t working — and she’s lost $50,000 at Sudbury Downs in Chelmsford as a result.

Nicole St. Louis put her name on Ontario Lottery and Gaming’s self-exclusion list in 2010.

The program is designed so casino security can turn away people on the list if they come to any casino operated by OLG.

The list is run on a volunteer basis.

St. Louis, who lives 20 minutes away from the casino, said the list is not working.

"That’s a big joke because they greet you with smiles … and they know who you are," she explained.

She said she has been turned away from casinos twice since putting herself on the list, but adds she has been allowed in the casino in Sudbury dozens of times.

"I thought it’s [supposed to be] so strict ... if I go in they’ll call the cops and I’ll be charged," she said. "There has to be something better in place to help people like us."

‘Up to them to commit’

OLG said the system isn’t fool-proof.

It detects people through facial recognition cameras when they walk in the front door and alerts security when it recognizes a gambler on the list.

Spokesperson Tony Bitonti said the list was never meant to be the only barrier between gamblers and their addiction.

"It’s success is measured by the people who use it as a first step to limit or stop their gambling," he said. "For us, it’s not a policing program."

The self-exclusion list has doubled the numbers in identifying people that are on it, he added.

"It is up to them to commit to this program," he explained. "It really does help people if they use it as a first step to limit or stop or change their gambling habits. Those who aren’t committed to it, it isn’t as effective — just like any self-help program out there."

OLG said there are 15,000 people across the province who have put themselves on the list.

About 1,870 of those people are in northern Ontario, including 115 in Greater Sudbury.