Responsible Gambling Experts Call For GameSense Lounge Upgrades at Massachusetts Casinos

Written By Mike Breen on May 14, 2024
Gamesense Play Break Lounge MGM Springfield

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is supporting a recommendation from responsible gambling researchers suggesting casinos feature GameSense lounge areas that offer patrons an inviting break from the casino floor.

This recommendation was part of a presentation at a May 9 MGC meeting in which Dr. Michael Wohl shared study results from the state’s GameSense initiative.

Responsible gambling experts recommend enhanced GameSense lounges at Massachusetts casinos

Launched in 2019, the GameSense program features an information desk and advisors at the state’s three Massachusetts casinos. Its goal is to educate players about positive responsible gaming practices and assist patrons in effectively applying such practices. 

The latest research generated by Wohl and his team is based on surveys of casino visitors, as well as GameSense advisors and frontline casino employees. Based on these recent surveys, Wohl recommended adding designated “Play Break” sitting areas inside the GameSense centers.

GameSense “Play Break” lounge areas boost responsible gambling

During his presentation last Thursday, Wohl explained that responsible gaming researchers have long advocated for players to take periodic breaks from gambling. When players get too into the heat of the moment while gambling, they can sometimes disassociate and lose track of time. 

Wohl said taking a step back can cool a player down and help them reset, telling the commissioners: 

“What tends to happen is players get in a hot emotional state when they’re playing and this is what leads to chasing (losses). So often what is needed is a play break, just taking a breath. Take a moment to think about how much money you’ve spent, have you exceeded your limits? Just a cool down.”

Play breaks also allow GameSense advisors to engage with patrons

According to Wohl, the lounge-like atmosphere of these welcoming sitting areas facilitates a cool-off period for patrons. Additionally, it provides an opportunity for GameSense advisors to engage patrons about responsible gaming.  

The presentation compared such engagement opportunities to harm reduction practices employed in some treatment and prevention programs for substance addiction, saying:

“Much like health practitioners interact with individuals at safe injection sites, (advisors) could engage with players during their breaks, offering RG guidance, resources, and assistance for those interested in managing their gameplay habits more effectively.” 

MGC praises MGM Springfield for GameSense area

Although the state’s three casinos each feature Gamesense areas, they are not quite all equal. MGM Springfield has seen particular success in recent months, with more casino patrons utilizing Gamesense’s comfortable, accessible seating to take a break from the gaming floor.

Wohl cited the GameSense information center at MGM Springfield as a good example of how the “Play Break” area could work well. The casino has several comfortable chairs accessible just steps from the gaming floor and near the responsible gaming information desk. He said during a visit to MGM Springfield he witnessed a player hanging out in the lounge area and casually talking about gambling with an advisor. 

Wohl explained:

“The GameSense advisors used it as an opportunity to educate the player, because he was espousing some erroneous beliefs about gaming. They were able then to talk with him about it in a relaxed area that’s away from the machines, away from the tables, where they were likely in a hot emotional state. They were able to leave the gaming floor, sit down, take a breath, and start chatting about their experiences away from the machines. That’s very useful.”

Wohl said the setup of GameSense centers at Plainridge Park Casino and Encore Boston Harbor is less inviting. The chairs at PPC are down a long hallway, while the seats at EBH are behind the information desk, where players might think they’re not allowed to sit. However, Wohl noted that these two casinos could see similar benefits with the help of some upgrades and increased awareness of their GameSense areas. 

MGC commissioners agree with RG recommendations

MGC commissioners who attended the May 9 presentation all agreed with the researchers’ recommendations. These recommendations also included more training for casino employees about what GameSense has available at the casinos. 

Commissioner Eileen O’Brien said she thought the casinos should still consider having more private seating areas for advisors and patrons to discuss responsible gambling topics like the state’s voluntary self-exclusion program or more personal matters. 

But she liked the idea of making the GameSense centers more open and comfortable for those looking to take a break. O’Brien said the break areas at EBH and PPC could give patrons the feeling that “they’re getting taken to the principal’s office.”

Photo by Massachusetts Gaming Commission
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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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