Massachusetts Hopes PlayMyWay Teaches Gamblers To Play The Responsible Way

In its first year, more than 10 percent of eligible customers at the Plainridge Park Casino signed up for PlayMyWay, a gambling addiction prevention pilot program on a trial run in Massachusetts casinos. Of the more than 12,000 patrons who enrolled in the program, less than 2,000 (about 16 percent) have un-enrolled. That means roughly eight percent of current Plainridge patrons (10,857 players) registered for and continue to use PlayMyWay. Massachusetts Gaming Commission Director of Research and Problem Gambling Mark Vander Linden presented the data at a public hearing before the commission on June 14. Harvard Medical School and Cambridge Health Alliance should release their initial report on the efficacy of PlayMyWay in August. Massachusetts’ wide-ranging research on gambling The research on PlayMyWay is a single piece of a larger study at the University of Massachusetts School of Public Health and Health Sciences. The university has been tasked by the state to perform a “comprehensive, multi-year research project… on the economic and social impacts of introducing casino gambling in Massachusetts.” To carry out the research, the university created the Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts (SEIGMA). The SEIGMA research helps gauge the impact of gambling expansion. It also helps the university make “annual scientifically-based recommendations to the Legislature.” What is PlayMyWay? PlayMyWay is a pre-commitment program. In other words, there is a difference between it and similar programs in other countries. PlayMyWay eliminated the commitment. Instead, it acts as more of a budgeting tool and even a play/spend tracker. Per Vander Linden’s report to the MGC: Enrolling in PlayMyWay I live about 20 minutes away from Plainridge Casino, so I have first-hand experience with the program. It’s fairly unobtrusive. Here’s an overview of how it works. When customer insert their Marquee Rewards cards for the first time, they will be asked if they’d like to enroll in the program. If they select “no,” they can begin gambling. If they select “yes,” the machine prompts them to set a wagering budget of their choosing. The entire process takes a minute or two to complete. Casino incentives to join program At Plainridge Casino, the casino offers customers a $5 food voucher to join the program. That isn’t much of an incentive though. Especially when considering the casino offers $20 or more in free slot play when players sign up for its Marquee Rewards Program. According to Vander Linden, only 25 percent of the patrons who receive the food voucher redeem it. It’s fair to assume it’s not a strong enough incentive to noticeably impact participation. Vander Linden speculates the high participation rate in PlayMyWay is a byproduct of the GameSense advisors and casino employees. Both groups “actively promote, enroll, and answer any questions which casino guests may have about the program.” It will be interesting to see if one of the recommendations SEIGMA makes is for Massachusetts casinos to start offering PlayMyWay registrants a bigger carrot or some type of ongoing reward for continued participation in the program.

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