What you need to know

  • The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is committed to the encouragement of responsible gaming practices through innovations including the GameSense Info Center and PlayMyWay
  • A robust Public Health Trust Fund will fund problem gambling prevention and treatment
  • Extensive research is being undertaken both before and after the advent of casinos to provide scientific data surrounding problem gambling

Gambling Disorder definition

The following are the diagnostic criteria of Gambling Disorder as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5):

Diagnostic criteria

A. Persistent and recurrent problematic gambling behavior leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as indicated by the individual exhibiting four (or more) of the following in a 12­month period:
a. Needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement.
b. Is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
c. Has made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling.
d. Is often preoccupied with gambling (e.g., having persistent thoughts of reliving past gambling
experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, thinking of ways to get money with
which to gamble).
e. Often gambles when feeling distressed (e.g., helpless, guilty, anxious, depressed).
f. After losing money gambling, often returns another day to get even (“chasing” one’s losses).
g. Lies to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling.
h. Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity
because of gambling.
i. Relies on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situations caused by gambling.

B. The gambling behavior is not better explained by a manic episode.
Specify if:
Episodic: Meeting diagnostic criteria at more than one time point, with symptoms subsiding
between periods of gambling disorder for at least several months.
Persistent: Experiencing continuous symptoms, to meet diagnostic criteria for multiple years.
Specify if:
In early remission: After full criteria for gambling disorder were previously met, none of the criteria
for gambling disorder have been met for at least 3 months but for less than 12 months.
In sustained remission: After full criteria for gambling disorder were previously met, none of the
criteria for gambling disorder have been met during a period of 12 months or longer.
Specify current severity:
Mild: 4–5 criteria met.
Moderate: 6–7 criteria met.
Severe: 8–9 criteria met.

Who can develop a gambling problem?

While anyone can develop a gambling problem, research conducted in Massachusetts has shown that certain subgroups of the population may be particularly vulnerable to problem gambling. These include: Veterans, African American/Black, Immigrants, Asians and Hispanics. MGC is taking steps to further assess these additional risks.


Are you concerned that about a potential gambling problem? Take the ten-question self-assessment provided by the National Council on Problem Gambling.

Prevalence of problem gambling

Research commissioned by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and conducted by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst found a 2.0% prevalence of problem gambling before the advent of casino gaming. The research also found 8.4% of the population was at risk of developing a gambling problem.

Treatment tools in Massachusetts

Massachusetts devotes substantial resources to the prevention of problem gambling and the provision of problem gambling treatment services.

Voluntary Self-Exclusion

This program supports a person’s decision to voluntary bar themselves from any Massachusetts gaming facility for a period of time.


If you or a loved one is experiencing problems with gambling and needs support, please call 1-800-327-5050 or visit https://gamblinghelplinema.org/ to speak with a trained specialist. The helpline is available 24/7, is free, confidential, and available in multiple languages.

Massachusetts Department of Public Health

Find problem gambling tools, resources and information from the MA Department of Public Health Office of Problem Gambling Services.

Outpatient Treatment Centers

The Department of Public Health, Bureau of Substance Abuse Services contracts with Outpatient Treatment Centers that are available to all those seeking professional counseling for problem disorders. Counseling is available to anyone concerned about gambling: those who gamble, their families and/or significant others. Treatment is available regardless of insurance coverage.


Self-help groups are available to support people experiencing gambling problems, as well as their loved ones.

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