Responsible Gambling Conference Set For Spring To Chart New Course

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BOSTON (State House News Service) — Having collected data and information over the last 10 years on the ways in which gambling is changing, the Mass. Gaming Commission is preparing this spring to convene a regional conference to consider how to apply that research to responsible gaming policies.

The May 14 conference in Worcester aims to bring together officials from the Northeast Council on Problem Gambling, which includes Maine, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and New York, and other industry stakeholders. It's planned to take place at the AC Marriott hotel with a capacity of about 200 people.

Mark Vander Linden, the commission's director of research and responsible gaming, said the goal is to improve "knowledge mobilization," or how the commission and others can make sure the vast amount of research they conduct gets to the right people or organizations to be implemented as policy or practice.

"The nature of gambling over the last 10 years and in Massachusetts has really changed. We've created a lot of evidence that highlights what those changes are. How do we take that evidence and rewrite the playbook?" Vander Linden said Thursday.

Last year, members of the Gaming Commission began raising concerns about the tiny percentage of sports bettors who have used responsible gambling tools -- like allowing gamblers to limit how much or how frequently they can bet, or letting bettors put themselves in a temporary "cool off" period -- since legal betting launched here almost a year ago. Commissioners said they would like to hold a roundtable with operators, industry experts and others to talk about how they might be able to make responsible gambling tools "cool."

A report up for discussion at Thursday's commission meeting shows that roughly 2,300 people have voluntarily excluded themselves from gambling at casinos or sportsbooks by enrolling in the VSE program that the Legislature required and the Gaming Commission established. About one-third of those people have completed a reinstatement session to be removed from the VSE program, leaving 1,573 active members as of Dec. 26, 2023.

The report says that a 2018 study found that a large percentage of people who continue to gamble after a period on a self-exclusion list "reported reductions in gambling frequency and losses," and also that rates of gambling abstention after enrollment are higher.

Written by Colin A. Young/SHNS

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