The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) is expanding options to help people control their gambling ahead of Tuesday’s launch of retail Massachusetts sports betting.
The MGC announced Friday morning that a Voluntary Self-Exclusion (VSE) list has been established specifically for sports wagering.
The VSE list already has been created and utilized in the state’s casino sector since the first casino opened in 2015.
According to a MGC spokesperson, someone could add themselves to the list for a set amount of time and then feel comfortable returning to wagering. The amount of time is set by the person who adds themselves to the voluntary self-exclusion list. More than 1,700 folks at one point added themselves to the casino list and today there are 1,329 folks registered.
Those currently on the casino VSE list will remain so and will continue to be excluded from the casino floor, including the soon to be opened sportsbooks.
The programs are designed to allow those who want to regain control a means to restrict their access to gambling for a pre-determined amount of time. With the introduction of sports wagering, individuals will have the option to self-exclude from casino gaming floors, retail and online sportsbooks like FanDuel Massachusetts, or both forms of gambling.
“VSE programs are proven to be a successful tool for those who need a break from gambling to manage their own play,” MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein said in a news release. “In light of research we have at our disposal, the MGC and our licensees are committed to offering these types of programs and a range of other resources to help gamblers in the Commonwealth.”
An early evaluation of the VSE program within the state found that enrollees reported significant improvements in gambling problems, mental health and relationship quality six months after enrolling.
“While VSE is one way to help people struggling with a gambling problem, we highly recommend they also seek treatment from a qualified clinician,” said Mark Vander Linden, MGC director of research and responsible gaming.
According to a 2022 study conducted by researchers at UMass Amherst, approximately 13-20% of Massachusetts adults have engaged in sports betting ahead of the law that legalized sports wagering in the Commonwealth. The same study found evidence that the introduction of sports wagering and participation in sports wagering led to an increase in gambling harms.
“Massachusetts has provided innovation and leadership in the realms of problem and responsible gambling,” said Marlene Warner, CEO of the Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health. “This early and comprehensive approach to VSE continues in that tradition. We hope that anyone in need of a conversation and some help with minimizing the impact gambling has on their life will consider this evidence-based program.”
Massachusetts retail sports betting launches on Tuesday. Massachusetts sports betting apps and mobile wagering is slated to begin in March.
The MGC has been conducting almost daily sessions to do due diligence on approving sportsbooks and putting rules and safeguards in place.
How To Seek Help, Self-Exclude
The Massachusetts Problem Gambling Helpline (800-327-5050) can provide callers with information about treatment and other resources.
Individuals interested in excluding themselves just from retail sportsbook locations or mobile/online sports wagering apps can avail themselves of this option over the phone (1.800.GAM.1234), online (www.gamesensema.com), or in-person at a GameSense Info center at Plainridge Park Casino (PPC), MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor in Everett.