Casino employees in Massachusetts keep an eye out for problem gamblers as industry grows.

The state of Massachusetts has recently embraced sports betting, marking itself as the latest legal gambling destination post the passage of the 2011 casino legislation. Comprising key stipulations, one that directs gambling revenues to aid in mitigating the harms of gambling, including issues arising within the casinos themselves, the legislation has been lauded for its forward-thinking approach.

MGM Springfield is a testament to this approach, featuring a green-office run by Amy Gabrila, an advisor with the GameSense program. The program is operated by the Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health, supported by a $3 million annual budget funded by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. It focuses on providing support to players, educating them on the low odds of winning a jackpot, and encouraging responsible gaming.

The GameSense team, originating in Canada and brought to Massachusetts by the state Gaming Commission’s responsible gaming and research division, aims to provide valuable resources and tools for gamblers. The goals include targeting players with internet searches and location tracking to expand the program’s reach and initiating a gambling warning system.

One of the valuable resources available for players is a budgeting tool called Play My Way for slot machines at casinos. It allows players to set spending limits to manage their gambling habits. Meanwhile, the self-exclusion program offers players, who feel out of their depth, an opportunity to ban themselves from casinos or sports betting for a period of time. Marlene Warner believes that tracking online player data can assist in creating a gambling warning system.

While the self-exclusion program has helped over 1,500 individuals in Massachusetts, experts like Lia Nower are skeptical about its long-term effectiveness. She thinks voluntary lifetime bans may work, but shorter terms lead to players reverting back to their prior levels of gambling once the exclusion period is over.

For those voluntarily excluding themselves, the Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health offers recovery support. One such staff member, known simply as J, has a history of gambling addiction and uses her experience to understand and support others struggling with addiction.

The state has come a long way in promoting responsible gambling, offering a variety of programs and tools to educate, support, and protect gamblers from the potential harms of frequent gambling.