Published: December 26, 2023

Massachusetts Gaming Commission Wants Roundtable Discussion On Responsible Gambling Tools

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission recently held a public meeting with the state’s sports betting operators. The commission’s Sports Wagering Division led a discussion on sports betting quarterly reports for Q3 2023.

Among Massachusetts sportsbook operators were DraftKings and PENN Entertainment (the company behind ESPN BET), which presented a breakdown of the poor usage of their responsible gambling (RG) tools.

Concerned about the tiny percentage of players using RG tools like time or deposit limits, the commission is looking to arrange a roundtable with operators and industry experts. They want to raise the issue and see how to try to make responsible gambling tools more acceptable.

98% of Massachusetts players don’t use responsible gambling tools

After receiving quarterly reports from all eight MA online sports betting operators, the commission saw that many people are not using responsible gambling tools.

Like in many other US gambling jurisdictions, sportsbooks must allow players to limit how much or how often they can bet. Operators must also enable players to put themselves in a temporary “cool off” interval for a predetermined time, which is up for players to decide.

Based on the total bet amount (betting handle), DraftKings, the most popular mobile platform in Massachusetts, reported the following numbers:

  • Less than 0.1% of bettors have used the time limit feature
  • 2.3% of players have set a deposit limit
  • 0.13% of users have restricted how much they can bet within a given amount of time
  • 0.4% of gamblers have established a maximum bet limit
  • 1.4% of players have used the “cool off” tool

Commenting on those numbers, MGC chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein said: “During the application process, this was a very important piece of the application, we wanted to make sure that we had strong RG tools for individuals to use on their device.

We know we share this with other jurisdictions, this is not novel. But really, these tools are very critical to this particular commission. And I know that our director of research and responsible gaming has been concerned that the bettors just are not utilizing them.”

Like DraftKings’ report, PENN’s quarterly results showed that only 0.5% of Massachusetts accounts use a time-out feature. Likewise, just 2.3% of gamblers confirmed they used “at least one RG tool.”

A chance for MGC to raise discussion among gambling stakeholders

Judd-Stein said the commission’s concern raises the opportunity to bring operators, responsible gambling experts and others together for a roundtable.

The executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), Keith Whyte, often said that his organization has an opportunity and obligation to work with various industry leaders.

As Whyte told PlayUSA, now would be the good time to get to a better family policy, which would include a consistent set of responsible gambling protections and provisions:

“We’ve got to be the ones driving, not because we have power – we’re the ones with the least power, but because we’ve got players’ interests and problems on our minds, and that’s always more important than the power. It’s the people protecting the people.”

With all gambling addiction, Keith said there’s usually an “enormous amount of shame and stigma.”

According to the Worcester Business Journal articleMark Vander Linden, MGC’s director of research and responsible gaming, suggested:

“We spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to destigmatize responsible gaming through the variety of tools that we offer in GameSense. And I think that this is a space that is ripe for us to be paying attention to.”

He added, “This is definitely a top RG priority for us.”

© Public Gaming Research Institute. All rights reserved.