MA Gaming Commission Celebrates Problem Gambling Awareness Month, Touts Initiatives & Research

Written By Mike Breen on March 12, 2024

In honor of Problem Gambling Awareness Month, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is spending March reiterating its dedication to responsible gaming practices and problem gambling prevention. 

The MGC, which regulates Massachusetts sports betting and casino gaming sent out a press release last week touting its extensive gambling research agenda and noting various state policies and initiatives aimed at reducing gambling-related harms.

Outgoing MGC chair Cathy Judd-Stein said in the release:

“The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is proud to again recognize and promote Problem Gambling Awareness Month in the Commonwealth. Advancing safe play and reducing the risks of problem gambling are paramount to the mission of the MGC, while our work to further programs and develop new initiatives centered on risk mitigation is truly a Commission-wide effort that includes everyone.”

Massachusetts Celebrates Problem Gambling Awareness Month

The National Council on Problem Gambling, which provides toolkits for treatment professionals, stakeholders, responsible gaming advocates and fellow supporters to share resources and information related to problem gambling, created PGAM more than 20 years ago.

According to the NCPG, Problem Gambling Awareness Month debuted as a way for the organization to spotlight problem gambling, increase awareness and “promote prevention, treatment, and recovery services”.

PGAM 2024 theme: “Every Story Matters”

It hasn’t been until recently, however, that PGAM has gained significant popularity, as more states come to legalize sports betting and other forms of gambling. As the MGC’s press release mentions, this year’s PGAM theme is “Every Story Matters” and the NCPG is encouraging people to share their problem gambling stories, including via social media using “#PGAM2024.”

The NCPG’s website states:

“Throughout the month, we aim to elevate these stories, fostering understanding and support within our communities. Together, let’s amplify awareness, break down stigmas and emphasize that when it comes to problem gambling, Every Story Matters.”

GameSense & voluntary self-exclusion help prevent problem gambling

In Massachusetts, the MGC worked with the Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health to develop and operate GameSense. The initiative provides responsible gaming and problem gambling support both online and on-site at all three of the state’s casinos.

GameSense employs trained “advisors” who provide problem gambling support at the casinos and are available via live chat 24 hours a day. GameSense’s website and casino “Info Centers” provide information on gaming and odds designed to enhance player understanding and promote responsible gambling practices.

GameSense also directs patrons with concerns about problem gambling to Massachusetts’ Voluntary Self-Exclusion program, which gives residents the ability to ban themselves from the gaming areas of the state’s casinos for a specified period of time. With sports betting going live last year, the state also launched a sports wagering VSE program, which lets participants exclude themselves from both online and retail sportsbooks. 

Last summer, the MGC reported that 1,619 people had enrolled in the state’s VSE programs — 1,378 were on the casino exclusion list, 39 excluded themselves from sports betting and 202 were participating in “dual self-exclusion,” self-banned from both sports wagering and casino gambling.

Those with gambling issues can also receive support by calling the MA Problem Gambling Helpline at 800-327-5050 or texting “GAMB” to 800327.

MA research shapes responsible gaming strategy

Since the first Massachusetts casino opened in 2015, the MGC has released over 75 research reports, several of which include studies on problem gambling and harm reduction through the implementation of safer gambling strategies. The research has included studies on things such as the impact of responsible gaming initiatives in the state and the habits and attitudes of those with (or at risk of developing) gambling disorders. As a result, data from these MGC research reports has been utilized by several academic publications.

Mark Vander Linden, the MGC’s director of research and responsible gaming, says the studies have helped develop policies and resources that can help keep citizens in the state from developing gambling problems.

“Findings from the Commission’s research agenda have been instrumental in the development and deployment of effective responsible gaming resources. Our research efforts have allowed us to mobilize data to advance a variety of responsible gaming tools and strategies as we aim to further implement policies and practices focused on prevention and mitigation of problem gambling.”

In February, commissioners heard findings from a study on the effectiveness of PlayMyWay, a GameSense program that encourages responsible gaming by giving visitors to the state’s three casinos the ability to set betting limits on all slots and electronic gaming machine play. The research showed that visitors who used the program reported losing less money and being happier with their experience. 

Photo by PlayMA
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Mike Breen

Mike Breen is an Ohio-based professional writer who has more than two decades of experience covering sports, news, music, arts and culture. He has covered online sports betting, responsible gambling, and other gambling initiatives for a variety of markets over the last couple of years. That now includes PlayMA.

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