Online sports betting in Massachusetts will make legal gambling more accessible than ever before.
While that’s convenient for gambling hobbyists, it’s potentially dangerous for compulsive gamblers. Thankfully, Massachusetts has one of the highest responsible gambling funding levels per capita in the US. In fiscal year 2021, Massachusetts’ per capita responsible gambling funding was second only to Oregon.
In total, 9% of sports betting tax revenue will go to the Public Health Trust Fund, which funds problem gambling resources and programs. If the $60 million annual tax revenue estimate is accurate, sports betting will add $5.4 million each year to this fund.
In fiscal year 2022, the Public Health Trust Fund reached $17.2 million. This fund is where the Office of Problem Gambling Services and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission get much of their funding to develop responses to problem gambling. Massachusetts created this fund as part of the Expanded Gaming Act of 2011, which legalized the state’s land-based casinos and laid the groundwork for Massachusetts’ leadership in responsible gambling infrastructure.
“One of the most important things that makes Massachusetts a national leader in responsible gambling is their statewide strategic framework for responsible gambling,” Keith Whyte, Executive Director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, told PlayMa. “This legislative requirement, along with dedicated funding for problem gambling and strong consumer protections, is the direct result of advocacy by our state chapter, the Massachusetts Council on Gaming & Health (MAGCH).”
The Pieces of Massachusetts Problem Gambling Funding
Massachusetts has two major funding sources in place for problem gambling services: $5 million comes from an annual fee based on the number of active slot machines across the state’s two resort casinos and one slot parlor, and 5% of resort casino tax revenue also goes to the Public Health Trust Fund.
Because of these allocations, the Public Health Trust Fund is generally expected to have $15-20 million.
“MACGH spent decades building relationships with all stakeholders and were thus well positioned to be an influential voice and trusted resource on the draft casino legislation,” Whyte said. “They proposed and fought for those provisions and many others to ensure Massachusetts had a comprehensive responsible gambling system.”
Massachusetts’ national leadership in problem gambling goes beyond finances. The MGC also develops programs that curtail problem gambling before it begins.
For example, Massachusetts developed PlayMyWay. It’s a simple program that allows bettors to set budgets and receive push notifications as they approach their budgets’ limits. It prevents loss-chasing, a common precursor to compulsive gambling disorder. PlayMyWay is a simple way to keep gambling within limits that each bettor can handle.
Spending Responsible Gambling Funding Is the Real Challenge
Unlike other modern sports betting markets, Massachusetts is prepared to legalize online gambling. It has an existing pool of responsible gambling funding and is increasing funding as it expands access to gambling.
That does not mean there are no longer challenges to solve. Universal self-exclusion continues to vex American sportsbook regulators. Self-excluded bettors in other markets still occasionally receive marketing materials featuring bonuses with misleadingly optimistic language. (Risk-free bets aren’t risk-free, for example, if they require customers to bet first.)
Every state that legalizes online sports betting should pursue solutions to these problems. But Massachusetts is one of the only states with the funding and proven research capabilities to formulate those solutions.
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