Responsible Gaming Tools Underutilized, Massachusetts Regulators Discover

Posted on: January 5, 2024, 08:23h. 

Last updated on: January 5, 2024, 12:32h.

Responsible gaming tools offered by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) are rather underutilized, state regulators said Thursday.

Massachusetts responsible gaming sports betting
Massachusetts gaming regulators say responsible gaming tools like DraftKings’ “Cool Off” mechanism aren’t very popular with online sports bettors. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission will hold a responsible gaming conference in May to consider new programs to assist problem players. (Image: DraftKings)

During the agency’s meeting on Thursday, the commission announced its plans to hold a responsible gaming conference on May 14 in Worcester. The event will be hosted with the Northeast Council on Problem Gambling, which, along with Massachusetts, includes Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

The MGC says it will bring along more than 10 years of player insights. The goal of the spring conference, commissioners said Thursday, is to discuss possible ways responsible gaming programs might better serve consumers.

The nature of gambling over the last 10 years and in Massachusetts has really changed. We’ve created a lot of evidence that highlights what those changes are. How do we take that evidence and rewrite the playbook?” said Mark Vander Linden, the MGC’s director of research and responsible gaming.

Massachusetts lawmakers legalized commercial casino gambling through the 2011 Expanded Gaming Act. The bill authorized as many as four commercial casinos. Three have since opened, including Plainridge Park, a slots-only facility, and two resort casinos, MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor in Everett.

Responsible Gaming Tools Underutilized

Massachusetts’ commercial gaming industry has been a stirring success. The first slot machine bet was wagered at Plainridge Park when the racetrack opened its casino in June 2015. Since then, the commonwealth has collected nearly $1.6 billion in gaming taxes and assessments from the three casinos. Plainridge shares 49% of its slot win with the state, while Encore and MGM’s gross gaming revenue is taxed lower at 25%.

Massachusetts lawmakers and then-Gov. Charlie Baker (R) expanded gaming in the commonwealth in 2022 with retail and online sports betting. In-person sportsbooks opened at the three casinos on Jan. 31, 2023. Online bets began in March.

While gambling has been a major win for the state, the MGC wants to make sure the industry isn’t negatively impacting players prone to excessive risk. Commissioners found last year that the responsible gaming tools operators currently offer are underutilized.

Tools that allow online sports bettors to “cool off” by temporarily halting their wagering accounts and self-exclusion programs haven’t exactly resonated with players, commissioners said.

On DraftKings, for instance, a market leader in the online sports betting space, less than 0.1% of sports bettors in the commonwealth utilized time limit tools. Just 2.3% used deposit limits, 0.4% set a maximum bet amount, and less than 0.2% used a tool limiting the number of bets they can place in a given time period.

Encouraging RG Participation

MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein said in November that it’s a priority of the commission to increase the use of responsible gaming tools. Judd-Stein says the state’s low use of responsible gaming tools isn’t singular to Massachusetts, but a reality shared with other states that have legal online sports betting.

Massachusetts is a leader in responsible gaming. The state was the first to bring GameSense — a responsible gaming program developed by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation — to its casinos. The program requires casinos to have on-site responsible gaming kiosks and staffed outlets that educate players about casino games and the odds they face.

MGM has since deployed GameSense to most of its U.S. casinos.