Mar 29, 2023 - News

How Massachusetts is tackling gambling addiction after rolling out sports betting

Someone holds up their phone to show the DraftKings loading screen. Boston-based DraftKing is one of several licensees in Massachusetts.

Boston-based DraftKings is one of several mobile sportsbooks advertising to locals, and it also offers a "cool off" feature. Photo Illustration: Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Reminders of the state’s new sports betting market are on ads everywhere: the radio, podcasts, TV, TikTok, Twitter and even on the T.

The big picture: The ad blitz might seem annoying to those who don’t care for sports betting. For those who are addicted, though, it can be a constant trigger.

Why it matters: Mobile sports betting gives sports fanatics the chance to place wagers on their favorite teams at their fingertips, raising concerns about the potential for compulsive gambling.

But the technology includes tools that let bettors limit how much they want to spend and temporarily block themselves from placing bets.

Driving the news: Gaming regulators embraced the flexibility earlier this month, approving a more nimble temporary prohibition policy for bettors seeking a “cool off” period.

  • Those options exist along with the state’s voluntary self-exclusion lists for sports betting and traditional casino gambling, which let people block themselves from placing bets for one year, three years, five years or a lifetime.
  • The state’s GameSense program offers trained advisors on the casino floor and on the phone who answer questions and help people sign up for the self-exclusion list.

Yes, but: While the self-exclusion lists apply across all Massachusetts casinos, the “cool off” feature isn’t easily enforceable on the casino floor where people can place wagers at a kiosk or the sports betting counter without a casino account.

  • The state’s PlayMyWay program, which holds participants to a self-imposed budget, has similar limits. It’s only enforceable on slots.

What they’re saying: “Having these tools available give you a different type of guardrail,” Mark Vander Linden, research and responsible gambling director at the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, says of the tools to limit spending and gameplay on digital sports betting apps.

Meanwhile, the attorney general’s office recommended regulators restrict sports betting ads on social media platforms believed to be primarily used by minors, naming TikTok and Instagram.

  • Regulators are still reviewing the suggestion and dozens of other comments about sports betting ad and marketing rules.

For now, sports betting operators can publish ads, as long as they contain a warning about gambling addiction and list the state’s hotline for addiction treatment, 1-800-327-5050.

By the numbers: About 45 people have signed up for the sports betting voluntary-self-exclusion list.

  • The list for casino gaming has 1,350 people enrolled.

Of note: Those lists don’t include people who have partially limited their gameplay. PlayMyWay, for example, had 31,000 people enrolled in fiscal 2022.

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