More than 1,000 opt out of gambling at Plainridge, across state
By Tom Reilly
PLAINVILLE — More than 1,000 residents have opted out of playing at any of the state’s casinos, but that’s only a fraction of those who may have a gambling problem, officials say.
The state has had its 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 individuals actively enrolled in the program. Since the program’s inception, nearly 1,300 individuals have participated, the report says.
It did not break down participants 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 participants sign up at the GameSense Info Centers located at each of the state’s three casinos, staffed by GameSense advisers. The commission has a contract with the Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health to operate the program.
An increasing number of people 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 by scheduling an appointment at 617-533-9737 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Enrollment locations include GameSense Info Centers, Plainridge Park Casino, MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbor, Massachusetts Gaming Commission in Boston.
A network of designated agents comprises treatment providers and counselors who are trained in Massachusetts Voluntary Self Exclusion enrollment.