Monitoring the process and monitoring the results have been a high point of emphasis ever since the passing of the Expanded Gaming Act by then Governor Deval Patrick on November 22, 2011. The goals of expanded gambling were two-fold:
- Through the establishment of new gaming facilities, the Expanded Gaming Act will create new jobs, generate new revenue for the Commonwealth, and contribute to the economic growth of the local economy.
- The Expanded Gaming Act protects communities from all potential social and economic impacts by a transparent and competitive bidding process of gaming licenses. (from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission website.)
Looking at the MGC website is quite interesting. As part of the ongoing baseline research efforts, this year the research team released a Problem Gambling Online Panel Survey Report. As a promise to its residents, the MGC has shown a major concern for the welfare and health of its gamblers. This study contained an enriched sample of problem gamblers to provide greater understanding of
1) negative personal impacts of gambling,
2) impacts of different forms of gambling on gambling-related problems and
3) prevention awareness and treatment-seeking behavior of problem gamblers.
GAMBLING PARTICIPATION BY ADULTS IN MASSACHUSETTS OVER THE LAST YEAR, BY ACTIVITY. First, here is how residents of the Pilgrim state gamble:
- 72 % – gambled in the previous year.
- 59 % – purchased lottery tickets.
- 32% – participated in raffles
- 22% – gambled at a land casino. (Not known if specifically in Massachusetts)
- 13% – bet on sports (despite its illegal status in the state)
- 3% – bet on horse racing
- 3% – bingo
- 2% – online betting (despite its illegal status in the state)
So, while almost 3/4 of Massachusetts residents have seemingly participated in gambling, only 22% have been to a casino. Remembering this is a survey, which will have +/- deviations on either side, it seems the lottery, as reported, is still the main source of gambling revenue. With the completion of Wynn Boston Harbor & MGM Springfield, the casino % will surely rise and compete with the lottery. That means the lottery won’t diminish in success, only that the percentage will be shared with the land casinos – the lottery’s piece of the pie will stay the same, but the pie will become a much bigger pie.
Massachusetts and its residents, more than any other state in the northeast, has always been concerned with problem gambling – monitoring, prevention, and help to those who need it. Key finding of the 2016 report state:
- 54% of problem gamblers experience financial problems because of gambling, but only 5% have filed for bankruptcy.
- 50% of problem gamblers have experience health or stress problems because of gambling, but less than 9% have sought medical or psychological help. • 14% report relationship problems because of gambling
- Problem gamblers report specific types of gambling contribute to their problems
- 23% report Instant Lottery Tickets contribute more to the problems encountered
- 19% report slot machines contribute more to the problems encountered
The percentage of problem gamblers in Massachusetts already is reported at 8.4%. This is a note of alarm, since nationally, 3-5 gamblers out of 100 experience problem gambling (according to Addictions.com) which is 3% higher than the national statistic.
Finally, according to the MGC report, 63.4% of Massachusetts residents consider themselves recreational gamblers. That’s a high percentage, with only 27% considering themselves “non-gamblers.”
So what’s with all the math? Remember in my first paragraph “Monitoring the process and monitoring the results have been a high point of emphasis.” I applaud the MGC and the state of Massachusetts for keeping track of this, and implementing the only GameSense Info Center currently in place within the United States at Plainridge Park Casino to gather information on responsible gambling. And Massachusetts is the only jurisdiction in the United States to have responsible gaming personnel on the casino floor.
On June 9, 2016, the MGC launched an innovative budget setting tool known as “PlayMyWay – The Smart Way to Track Your Play”. This tool prompts rewards card holders to voluntarily choose a daily, weekly, and/or monthly budget to track their spending while at Plainridge Park Casino.
Massachusetts has certainly done more than most in collecting data and helping its residents. We know gambling has its downside. But Massachusetts and the MGC is trying its best to keep track for its residents sake.