Advancing Responsible Gaming with Research

Responsible gaming is core to the mission of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, and we’re proud to partner with the American Gaming Association to promote Responsible Gaming Education Month (RGEM). This year the MGC selected the theme Play it Smart from the Start to highlight the availability of PlayMyWay, a voluntary self-budgeting tool available on all slot machines and electronic table games in Massachusetts, as well as play management tools available across the state’s licensed sports betting apps. The utility of these tools has been informed by research findings that emphasize the importance of encouraging players to use pre-commitment tools to proactively determine how much time and money they aim to spend before they begin gaming.  

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In order to design effective responsible gaming programs, it is important to understand the broader context of player behavior. We are continuing to engage in research that addresses risk at the societal, community, interpersonal and individual levels, and emphasizes the importance of thinking broadly about risk and harm when planning a public health approach that considers prevention, intervention and recovery support initiatives on a wide spectrum. Research findings about gambling behavior and harms in Massachusetts include: 

  • On a measure of “positive play the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors of players surrounding gambling so that it remains a recreational activity and creates minimal risk of experiencing gambling-related harm in Massachusetts, most players scored high on measures of personal responsibility, as well as honesty, control and, to a lesser extent, pre-commitment; most players scored medium or low on gambling literacy.  
  • The prevalence of problem gambling is 2% of the adult population, with an additional 8% considered to be at-risk. Additionally, 27% have not gambled in the past year and 63% indicate they engage in recreational gambling: gambling because they enjoy the activities. 
  • According to the Massachusetts Gaming Impact Cohort (MAGIC) study, it’s common for an individual’s pattern of gambling behavior — and thus level of risk — to shift back and forth over time. For example, an individual who is at-risk at one point of time may be a recreational or problem gambler in the future.   
  • In terms of people at higher risk of experiencing gambling harm, men are three-times more likely than women, people who identify as Black are four-times more likely than people who identify as white, and people with a high school diploma are three-times more likely than individuals with a college degree. 
  • When considering the impact of gambling harm on the larger community, it’s important to consider the “Prevention Paradox,” which states that approximately 70% of all gambling harms occur in the low-risk adult general population, due to the high number of people in those groups, even though people in the high-risk population suffer the greatest amount of harm per individual.  

The Commission is charged with carrying out an annual research agenda to comprehensively assess the impacts of gaming in Massachusetts in an evolving gaming landscape. For the upcoming year, selected areas of focus will include: an evaluation of the effectiveness of select sports wagering responsible gaming tools; a study on the impact of iGaming on public health with particular focus on comparison of participants with those involved in other forms of gaming comorbidity with problem gambling, and impacts on youth under the age of 25; and a prospective study on the feasibility and potential impact of allowing retail locations in the state to operate sports wagering kiosks. Findings from this research will continue to inform how to reduce harm through safer gambling strategies, practices and policies.  

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