Massachusetts Hosts Inaugural Conference to Discuss Responsible Gambling, National VEP Program

Written By TJ McBride on May 16, 2024
Massachusetts RG Conference

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission held its inaugural responsible gambling conference this past Wednesday, which included stakeholders from Massachusetts and multiple other states.

The idea behind this conference was simple: to gather as many different responsible gambling professionals from New England and beyond as possible for a day of discussion about the future of the gaming industry.

Regulators began prioritizing responsible gambling long before the recent launch of Massachusetts sports betting. Thus, this initial conference initiated a more collective effort from the region and the country as a whole.

MGC hosts conference to stimulate responsible gambling collaboration across New England

The conference, titled “Using Research to Rewrite the Playbook,” focused on one primary topic: responsible gambling. With gambling growing more and more by the day, responsible gambling efforts must grow with it. Massachusetts Gaming Commission Interim Chair Jordan Maynard outlined the sentiment, saying:

“Sports betting is here. Gambling is here. While there are many benefits that come with this growth, we need to know what’s working so we can build on proven tools. We also need to know where improvements can be made to broaden the reach and depth of our most impactful programs.”

Marlene Warner, Chief Executive Officer of the Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health, shared a similar position, explaining:

“To stay on the forefront of gambling expansion, collaboration between the diverse individuals who work across the continuum of prevention, intervention, and treatment remains essential. Through such a collaboration, we have an opportunity to chart a national game plan that promotes healthy play, bolsters consumer advocacy, and ensures that all New Englanders negatively impacted by gambling addiction have access to support.”

So even if this event was put on by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, its goal reaches much further than the state’s borders. Maynard explained this when the conference was announced back on April 30, saying:

“This really originates from the idea that we can do a better job of pulling together a diverse range of stakeholders not just in Massachusetts but throughout New England in order to talk about gambling issues and also to mobilize our research, the immense amount of research we have done over the years.”

Conference highlights social & economic impacts of gambling

Being that this conference was a melding of the minds, this one-day event covered a variety of responsible gambling topics.

A third-party assessment of GameSense, a responsible gambling program designed for virtually all gamblers, was conducted. According to the assessment, 74% of people who engaged with GameSense Advisor felt more informed about their gambling activities. Such advisors are located at GameSense information centers inside the state’s three casinos to help with any questions related to responsible gambling. The program also hosts a 24/7 support line and a LiveChat at

Dr. Rachel Volberg also presented findings from the Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts and Connecticut Impact Study. There were some interesting insights about Massachusetts sports betting and gaming as a whole.

  • Compared to 2013, more individuals in Massachusetts believe that gambling is too widely available. (15.6% in 2013 compared to 67.5% in 2021).
  • Massachusetts sports bettors are more likely to be male, college graduates, and currently employed.
  • At-risk and problem gamblers in Massachusetts account for larger proportions of state gambling expenditures (74% in 2013 compared to 88% in 2021).

Vander Linden discusses national voluntary self-exclusion program

Conference attendees also heard a presentation of a newly proposed national voluntary self-exclusion program. This topic was previously brought up in a Massachusetts Gaming Commission meeting on May 14. Executive Director of Research, Mark Vander Linden detailed the effort, saying:

“There really is not an example in Massachusetts or New England or within the country that allows VSE reciprocity between states. So, an individual that enrolls in the voluntary self-exclusion program in Massachusetts is not extended to a statewide voluntary self-exclusion in Rhode Island or Connecticut or New York. That just is not possible as it is governed by our regulation as well as the regulations in the states I just mentioned.”

This plan still has a long way to go before being put in front of legislators. According to Vander Linden, his FY2025 budget does not account for it and he views its current stats as a “discovery period.”

“My current FY2025 budget does not have this built into it. I think this is something that, if we get the answers we are looking for and there is an intention to move forward, we would need to look at how to build this int my FY2025 budget. It may be more realistic that there would be a discovery period and that we build it into future budgets if this makes sense for the gaming commission.”

According to the press release, an estimated 239,000 New Englanders are struggling with problem gambling habits. With continued research and development, Vander Linden and his collective crew may be well on their way to uncovering effective responsible gambling solutions for the entire nation.

Photo by Dreamstime / PlayMA
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TJ McBride

T.J. McBride lives in Denver, Colorado and is best known for his work covering the Denver Nuggets for outlets such as FiveThirtyEight, ESPN, Bleacher Report, and other major outlets. After a decade covering the NBA, T.J. has now stepped into the gaming space and now reports and writes on gambling news across the nation.

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