Casino gambling on the horizon in Massachusetts, has sparked a lot of conversation about the problems that may accompany them including gambling addiction.
While The Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health (the Council) has been advocating for those impacted by gambling disorder for 30 years, our non-profit organization’s knowledge and experience has never been in as much demand as it is right now. We have become the convener of all things problem gambling in the State.
Appropriately, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC), which was formed in the spring of 2012, has been leading the charge of expanded gaming in the Commonwealth. MGC was formed to create a fair, transparent, and participatory process for implementing the expanded gaming law.
While some might think that our two groups would be on opposite sides of the issue, the reverse is actually true. A strong relationship has emerged with a shared commitment to mitigate problem gambling. This is a powerful alliance and one we believe will influence how the Commonwealth views and addresses problem gambling now and for years to come.
When MGC first convened, we leaned heavily on the expertise and spirit of collaboration that the Council provided to lay a groundwork for critical work in the area of problem gambling. The Council sponsored an all-day educational forum for the Commissioners, helped to facilitate a research forum, and served on multiple advisory groups.
Following these events, and with a serious commitment to mitigating problems that may arise from gaming expansion in the Commonwealth, the MGC appointed a Director of Research and Problem Gambling. The position oversees all research efforts and serves as the head of its Office of Problem Gambling to research, develop, and recommend the most effective and innovative programs to prevent, educate, and treat problem and disordered gambling in the Commonwealth.
Massachusetts is unique in that we are systematically working to address the issue of problem gambling by building a comprehensive system to prevent and treat problem gambling and support the recovery of persons in recovery.
Earlier in the year, the Council brought stakeholder groups together to “build a Common Agenda – a short-term plan for problem gambling services in the Commonwealth.” The meeting focused on problem gambling services in the state and on determining the work ahead; including who will complete that work, and how success will be measured.
Doing this “right” takes dedication and shared responsibility. It takes a commitment to conducting research to understand the impacts. It takes the attention of policy makers to understand the complexity of the issues. It takes the willingness of gaming operators inform their customers of the risks and responsibilities of gambling. It takes an army of compassionate professionals to reach individuals and families who have been most hurt by gambling problems and help pave a path to recovery.
Marlene Warner is the Executive Director of The Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health
Mark Vander Linden is the Director of Research and Problem Gambling of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission