In the 21 years Marlene Warner has been with Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health, she has helped create several programs aimed at protecting gamblers. Those efforts recently were recognized when she won a lifetime award for safe gambling advocacy.
Warner won the National Council on Problem Gambling’s Monsignor Joseph Dunne Lifetime Achievement Award for Advocacy at the NCPG’s national conference last month in Boston. It is given “in recognition of a career dedicated to improving the lives of problem gamblers and their families through advocacy, research, training, or the promotion of public awareness.”
As part of the award, Warner will give the keynote at the NCPG’s 2023 conference in Washington, D.C. The move toward legalizing Massachusetts sports betting is sure to be a topic in her speech.
Warner sounds alarm on MA sports betting
Massachusetts lawmakers have been wrestling with bills that would make sports betting legal. A sports betting bill passed early Monday after weeks of back-and-forth negotiations between members of the House and Senate.
Amid that battle, Warner has been vocal about the impacts sports betting will have on the state’s residents. In a February op-ed for the Boston Business Journal, Warner highlighted the dangers sports betting poses to kids:
“With the spawn of sports betting and online gaming, the number of minors sidling up to gambling activities has surged nationally. While gambling and sports betting is illegal for everyone under 18, it hasn’t stopped kids from using a parent’s credit card or finding ways to skirt the rules.”
Warner pointed out that around seven out of 10 teenagers age 14-19 said they gambled in 2019. Additionally, 6.5% of minors either have a gambling problem or are at risk of developing one.
“Honest, open communication can help you learn more about your child’s exposure to gambling,” Warner wrote. “Maybe that conversation starts during a timeout or commercial break this Sunday. … Stick with it. Find opportunities to share that underage gambling is illegal and that statistically, gambling results in more losses than wins. Underscore the risks of gambling.”
A steadfast advocate for safe gaming and health
Warner’s career at the MCGH is an illustrious one of more than two decades. She joined the council in 2001 and became its executive director in 2011.
In that time, she:
- Launched responsible gambling programs for Encore Boston Harbor, Plainridge Park Casino and MGM Springfield;
- Implemented self-exclusion programs;
- Led responsible gambling seminars for lottery sales agents and retailers throughout North America;
- Served as a board president of the NCPG;
- Helped launch Massachusetts’ GameSense problem gambling initiative.
In addition to her duties at the MCGH, Warner serves as chair of the NCPG’s northeast affiliate region. Her résumé is no doubt deserving of the NCPG’s award. Even more impressive is that the award is not given out every year. For example, there were no recipients from 2007 to 2010.
Though Warner deserves credit for her work, when asked about the award, she told Patch.com the award is a team effort:
“I’ve been privileged to learn from and collaborate with amazing mentors, policymakers and fellow advocates over the years. This award goes out to them. Together, we’ve made a significant impact to help mitigate the harms of gambling and gaming in our communities.”
Warner’s win carries on former director’s legacy
To find the last person from Massachusetts to win the lifetime achievement award, you’d have to go back to 2011.
That year, Kathleen Scanlan won the award. Scanlan was the executive director of the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling from 1998 to 2011.
Warner took the reins in 2011 and has carried on Scanlan’s legacy, leaving her own mark on the state’s efforts to provide a safe gambling environment in casinos and, in the future, for sports betting.