PLAINVILLE — More than 1,000 residents have voluntarily opted out of playing at any of the state’s casinos, the state’s gaming officials say, but that’s only a fraction of those who may have a gambling problem.
The state has had a Voluntary Self-Exclusion program since Plainridge Park Casino, the state’s first legal gaming venue, opened on Route 1 in 2015. Since then, according to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, the program has been a “critical component” of its efforts to limit problem gambling.
“This milestone is significant but represents a small percentage of those struggling to control their gambling. The VSE program is designed to honor and support a person’s decision to stop gambling,” Mark Vander Linden, the commission’s director of research and responsible gaming, stated in a recent report.
There are 1,020 active individuals enrolled in the program. Since the VSE program’s inception, nearly 1,300 individuals have participated, the report says.
The report did not break down enrollees by individual gaming venues.
According to research by the University of Massachusetts, in 2013 and 2014, 2% of the state’s adult residents — roughly 110,000 people — met the criteria for problem gambling, and 8%, or 440,000 individuals, were at risk.
“We know that problem gambling can have devastating consequences, not just to the individual but everyone around them. Enrolling in the VSE program can be a significant step towards better health and relationships” said Marlene Warner, executive director of the gaming commission.
According to the commission, people who enroll in the program can select a one-year, three-year, five-year, or a lifetime exclusion.
Individuals may select the lifetime exclusion only if they have first completed a shorter term. A majority, 53%, pick the five-year term. Only 3% opt for the lifetime ban, the report says. Nearly 70% of enrollees are male and the median age is 46.
Some 83% of enrollees sign up at the GameSense Info Centers located at each of the state’s three casinos, staffed by so-called GameSense advisors. The commission has a contract with the Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health to operate the program.
An increasing number of persons have remotely enrolled in the VSE program. People who wish to enroll can do so from anywhere using a computer or mobile device with email access and video capabilities, the commission says.
State residents can enroll:
By phone on the 24-hour Safer Gaming Education Line at 1-800-426-1234.
Chat via the GameSense website, available 24 hours a day.
In-person: To schedule an appointment to enroll in the Massachusetts Voluntary Self-Exclusion Program, contact the Massachusetts Gaming Commission at 617 –533-9737 or email [email protected]
Enrollment locations are:
GameSense Info Centers, Located in Plainridge Park Casino, MGM Springfield, and Encore Boston Harbor, Massachusetts Gaming Commission in Boston.