BOSTON (SHNS) – The list of people who have asked the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to prohibit them from the gaming floors of the state’s casinos and slots parlor now includes more than 1,000 names, a milestone that a gaming regulator said only touches the surface of problem gambling in the Bay State.
There are 1,020 people actively enrolled in the commission’s Voluntary Self-Exclusion (VSE) program and nearly 1,300 people have participated in the program since it was launched to coincide with the start of legal gambling in 2015. People can enroll in the program to be barred from gaming floors for one year (28 percent of enrollees), three years (16 percent of enrollees), five years (53 percent of enrollees) or their lifetime (3 percent of enrollees).
Almost 70 percent of VSE program participants are men and the median age of participants is 46, the commission said. “I want to say that these numbers of enrollments are impressive and it’s a milestone. But I also want to say that it represents just a small percentage of the number of people that we know in Massachusetts struggle to control their gambling,” Mark Vander Linden, the Gaming Commission’s director of research and responsible gaming, said during a commission meeting Thursday. “I think that we should be proud that we have a program that is there to honor and support a person’s decision to stop gambling.”
The commission pointed to research that showed in 2013 and 2014 about 110,000 Bay State adults or 2 percent of adult residents met the criteria for problem gambling and that 440,000 residents were at risk for experiencing gambling-related harms. About 83 percent of all VSE program participants enroll in the program at one of the state’s three gambling centers by talking to a GameSense advisor, which was the only way to enroll before the pandemic led to a change.
The GameSense program, operated on a contract with the Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health, “encourages players to adopt behaviors and attitudes that reduce the risk of gambling-related harm” and offers resources other than the VSE program.