Inside MassGaming: Q&A With Director of Research and Problem Gambling Mark Vander Linden
Director of Research and Problem Gambling Mark Vander Linden
In what ways did the Legislation enabling expanded gaming seek to address issues related to problem gambling?
There are so many elements to the legislation that relate to problem gambling. There isn’t a magic bullet to address problem gambling. We have to look at this from all angles and levels. The legislation intentionally requires a very robust research agenda and the first-of-its-kind in the nation. To implement this statutory requirement, the Commission has contracted with a research team at UMass-Amherst to measure the rate of problem gaming as it exists in Massachusetts before the facilities arrive. They’re also getting ahead of the game, so to speak, to put together a system that will monitor a number of social and economic variables. Understanding these types of impacts will allow us to respond in a more strategic and data-driven way.
Talk about the requirements that any gaming applicant has to meet before being awarded a license to operate a casino or slots parlor.
Each applicant seeking a license must demonstrate to the Commission their commitment to addressing problem gambling, both among customers, and in their own workforce. Commissioners will be evaluating the strength of their proposals based on how each applicant demonstrates its commitment to identifying and treating problem gambling. They will have to demonstrate a training program for employees to recognize problem gaming behaviors and how to provide assistance to those who may need it. An applicant must always show that they have a proven track record in their commitment to responsible gaming. A demonstrated commitment to an awareness and proactive approach to problem gambling is a crucial component towards a successful application in the eyes of the Commission.
MassGaming isn’t going at this alone – can you talk about the ways the Commission is partnering with other state agencies to monitor, prevent, and treat, problem gambling?
We’re excited to be working with the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling. Since 1983 they have been an vital voice in defining and responding to this issue not just for the Commonwealth but for the entire New England area. Their purpose: to reduce the social, financial and emotional costs of problem gambling is noble work. And since the Commission’s inception they have been an important partner.
Another important partner is the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Their work in this area now and as gaming expands is essential. A public health approach to addressing problem gambling seeks to prevent problems and assure a network of support for those needing treatment and are in recovery.
Massachusetts has a rich history in its commitment to address problem gambling. I look forward to continuing this tradition in the future.
Mark Vander Linden is Director of Research and Problem Gambling for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. Information about the Commission’s research agenda is available here. Resources for problem gambling are available on the Problem Gambling page.