Casino Staff in Massachusetts on the Lookout for Troubled Gamblers amid Industry Expansion

Sports betting was legalized in Massachusetts earlier this year, marking the latest legal gambling opportunity in the state since the passage of the 2011 casino legislation. This law is celebrated for requiring a portion of gambling revenues to be allocated to mitigating the harms associated with gambling, within the casinos themselves.

One initiative taking place within the MGM casino in Springfield is the GameSense program, which is funded by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. GameSense provides advisors, such as Amy Gabrila, to assist casino visitors in engaging with gambling in a responsible manner. GameSense is designed to address the issue of problem gambling, offering a listening ear and resources to those who may be facing distress or difficulty due to their gambling habits.

Gabrila, who has herself worked in the casino industry for 20 years, says her role at the GameSense program is drastically different from her previous job, focusing on providing knowledge about the low odds of winning. The program aims to address the 2% of the Massachusetts population affected by serious gambling addiction and the 8% at high risk.

The GameSense program has been evolving to tailor its messaging to different types of players, with a focus on teaching gambling literacy and providing resources for players who may struggle with addictive behavior. In addition, Play My Way is a budgeting tool that Massachusetts casinos have installed on all slot machines to allow players to set spending limits.

The GameSense program is also reaching out to sports bettors and using location tracking and internet searches to target potential problem gamblers. The last resort for problem gamblers is self-exclusion from the casino, with more than 1,500 individuals in Massachusetts currently on the voluntary self-exclusion list. However, experts have varying opinions on the effectiveness of self-exclusion at curbing addictive behavior. Those on the self-exclusion list are offered support from recovery staff who can relate to their struggles and offer guidance on managing or stopping their gambling habits.