A study released last week from the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that the rate of remission for problem gamblers is very high, with 44 percent of persons, who were problem gamblers one year, did not meet the criteria the following year.
And while this group is finding relief from gambling harm, they tend to continue to gamble, but more moderately.
Why is this important?
In Massachusetts, 2 percent or roughly 110,000 adult residents meet the criteria for problem gambling, and 8 percent or 440,000 are experiencing harm to a lesser degree. Research shows that remission from the symptoms of problem gambling is common; however, these individuals remain at-risk. Findings underscore the importance of offering a variety of options supporting safe play, harm reduction, and abstinence.
In 2015, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) launched GameSense, an innovative, player-focused responsible gaming program that encourages players to adopt behaviors and attitudes that reduce the risk of gambling-related harm. Operated by the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling, GameSense Info Centers are located at each casino property and staffed by trained advisors. GameSense advisors equip players and employees with information, tips and tools to keep gambling a safe and enjoyable experience. In the first eight months of 2019, GameSense advisors at the three Massachusetts casinos have engaged close to 23,000 patrons and 2,500 employees in conversations about responsible gaming. An early evaluation of the GameSense program found that over 40 percent of casino patrons who interacted with an advisor caused them to change or think differently about their gambling behavior.
The MGC has enrolled 650 people into the Voluntary Self-Exclusion program (VSE), supporting individuals who elect to abstain from casino gambling in Massachusetts. A 2018 VSE evaluation found that 80 percent of surveyed enrollees reduced or stopped gambling at six and twelve month follow-up after enrollment.
As part of the MGC’s steadfast commitment to promoting positive play and reducing gambling-related harm, the MGC enthusiastically supports Responsible Gaming Education Week (RGEW) from September 16 – September 20, 2019. RGEW was developed by the American Gaming Association in 1998 to prioritize responsible gaming as an integral part of the gaming industry’s daily operations. The annual advocacy week also provides an opportunity to strengthen employee training, promote gaming literacy among casino guests, and further advance responsible gaming programs.
The week-long campaign features the themes “Watch Your Time” and “Have a Game Plan.” It is common practice for responsible gamblers to routinely set time limits and establish a play strategy before they gamble. GameSense advisors reinforce these strategies through educational activities offered daily at all three GameSense Info Centers. Massachusetts casinos strongly support RGEW activities and elevate messaging through social media and in-casino signage.
Mark Vander Linden, MGC director of research and responsible gaming, said, “Massachusetts is incredibly fortunate to have a robust research program to guide these strategies. GameSense advisors are the heart of the program. Their work empowers patrons to gamble safely and responsibly, not only during RGEW but year-round.” Introduced by BCLC in 2009, GameSense is an innovative, player-focused responsible gambling program that encourages players to adopt behaviors and attitudes that can reduce the risk of developing gambling disorders. This includes setting and sticking to personally-allocated time and monetary limits for gambling, as well as being open and honest with family, friends and oneself when it comes to personal gambling habits.