Colin A. Young

BOSTON – Massachusetts gamblers could benefit from a better understanding of the games they play and the risks involved, as well as greater use of strategies like setting a limit before you start gambling, a Canadian consulting firm told the Gaming Commission.

In total, a study of more than 1,500 gamblers in Massachusetts found that their beliefs and behaviors about responsible gambling largely coincided with those of their counterparts in some other states with legal gambling, but that they were more likely to be less responsible gamblers than those in Canada .

Dr. Richard Wood, a psychologist who specializes in studying gambling behavior for Gamres, presented the results of an online survey of 1,512 Massachusetts gamblers, all of whom had played in the past 12 months, and half of whom had played one Massachusetts Casino during this time.

Wood took the survey results and calculated “positive game results” based on four elements: personal responsibility, playing skills, honesty and control, and pre-commitment. Approximately 77 percent of these polls scored high on personal responsibility – meaning they clearly understand the need to gamble only within their means. Another 17 percent of players scored in the medium range, which means they are mostly positive players but have room for improvement. Six percent got low scores, which means they are clearly not positive players in terms of personal responsibility.

According to Wood, the Massachusetts players also got good results in terms of honesty and control, which means that most players know when it is time to stop playing and can control their bets.

In terms of gaming proficiency, however, only 37.5 percent of players in Massachusetts had high positive scores, while 34.4 percent had medium scores and 28.1 percent had low gaming proficiency. Using the pre-commitment method, which measured strategies like entering the casino with a fixed limit on wagering or loss, 58 percent of Massachusetts players scored high, 28 percent in the middle, and about 14 percent of players in the low Category.

“We can immediately see that gaming literacy and pre-commitment are certainly areas that would benefit from a slightly stronger focus in the future,” Wood told the Gaming Commission.

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The study found two particular areas of focus for Massachusetts regulators and responsible gaming advocates: young gamers and people who regularly play different types of games.

Wood found that positive game scores in all four categories increased as the players got older, which means that as they age, players become more responsible, better understanding games and risks, better controlling themselves, and doing more to limit themselves before playing to put.

“We can speculate that players who gamble over time will become more experienced with the games and more responsible gambling initiatives. And of course, it’s generally more of a time to take risks when you’re young.” “He said.” But I think it shows us that a focus on younger players and the use of media that appeals to those players could be a useful way to focus the responsible gaming strategy going forward. “

In all four focus areas, Wood found that the scores of the players in Massachusetts were very similar to the scores of the players in four other US states where he conducted the same type of study. But US players were more likely than Canadian players to score medium or low points, and this could be related to the amount of money spent on responsible gambling endeavors.

“In terms of responsible gaming, I would say Canada and Scandinavia are really leading the way when it comes to responsible gaming. They put a lot of resources into responsible gaming initiatives,” said Wood. “While this is correlation data, I think there is an indication here that the amount of resources has an impact on the overall level of positive play.”

Casino revenue in Massachusetts helps fund programs and services that help prevent and mitigate problem gambling. Five percent of the tax revenue the state collects each month from casinos and the slots salon is earmarked for a public health trust fund set up in the 2011 amended Gambling Act.

The Gambling Commission uses GameSense as a “comprehensive strategy for responsible gaming”. The program includes information centers in all gaming establishments and counselors in the state, whose interventions range from occasional talks on things like betting odds to more in-depth assistance. The commission also requires that Massachusetts casinos allow players to put themselves on a self-exclusion list to prohibit themselves from playing for a period of time.

Wood recommended that responsible Massachusetts gambling initiatives focus on improving gambling literacy and promoting pre-commitment strategies, and that efforts should take a segmented approach because “a one-size-fits-all approach is definitely not optimal”.

Using “social proof” statements – like saying about 82 percent of Massachusetts gamblers say gambling is not a good way to make money – and explaining how slot machines and casino games work in easy-to-understand videos would be a decent one Place to start on the literacy front, he said.

The same idea can be used to encourage pre-commitment, Wood said, as can a strategy called anchoring, which tells players the average amount that a jackpot or other winner is betting.

“When you tell people what most other people do, they can feel very confident,” said Wood. “People … don’t want to be too conspicuous. They want to adapt … so this can be a very powerful and compelling way to get players to change their attitudes and behavior. There is some good evidence, too who can be shown that videos teaching people how games work can be effective. “

Wood also recommended that Massachusetts and other states stop using the phrase “responsible gambling” because many people have negative connotations.

“A lot of players find it patronizing or they think it’s irrelevant to them because they think it’s only about people with gambling problems,” he said. “So we have to think about the more general language. So instead of saying things like ‘limit setting’ or ‘budgets’ that don’t sound very funny at all, we could talk about ‘saving my money’ or ‘my bankroll’.”

Mark Vander Linden, director of research and responsible gaming at the Gaming Commission, said the data and analysis Wood presented on Thursday goes well with other research conducted by the commission and will help the commission’s GameSense program and other efforts to optimize.

“We have the components available and through the GameSense program,” he said. “How do we do it better? How do we create this message that picks up on the components already there, shifts it, shifts it a little, so that it becomes more effective and in a measurable way? Is a really valuable piece of what we can get from it. We’re going not light years ahead and introducing entirely new programs, we’re talking about incremental changes along the way to become the best program we can. “