Massachusetts Gaming Commission working with casinos on programs to help gamblers track spending

SPRINGFIELD - The Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted last week to work with MGM Springfield and Wynn Resorts to establish responsible gambling systems that would let frequent casino customers set voluntary budgets and receive automatic alerts when those limits are near.

The commission voted unanimously to work collaboratively with the casino companies on the "play management" program rather than establish the systems through regulation.

"We are very, very committed to innovative and aggressive promotion of responsible gaming and attention to problem gambling," Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby said in an interview Monday. "It's really a high priority and, I think, innovative."

The casino companies wanted a non-regulatory approach, in effect saying they wanted "to be treated as good corporate citizens, not like the casinos of Bugsy Siegel," Crosby said, referring to the notorious 1930s gangster.

MGM Springfield, Wynn and Gaming Commission members said the collaborative approach allows for evaluation of the programs, adjustments as needed and innovative efforts.

Wynn plans to open a casino outside Boston in 2019. MGM is on schedule to open a $960 million casino in Springfield's South End in September.

With a September 2018 opening coming fast, officials are keeping their cards close when it comes to discussing details inside the walls of the $960 million casino project.  

"MGM Springfield is ready and willing to collaborate with the MGC on instituting a play management system that will not only serve the gaming customers of Massachusetts but that will also serve as a template for operators in other jurisdictions," MGM Springfield President Michael Mathis said.

A Wynn Resorts official cited a letter from the American Gaming Association that called for collaboration to allow for regular evaluation and potential modifications.

Penn National Gaming Inc., which runs casinos across the U.S., adopted a play management system known as PlayMyWay at its Plainridge Park Casino in eastern Massachusetts. It was approved by the Gaming Commission in 2014 and launched in June of 2016 for Plainridge's Marquee Reward (player card) members.

PlayMyWay "prompts cardholders to voluntarily set a daily, weekly, and/or monthly budget to track their spending," a Gaming Commission report said. "Once enrolled, patrons receive automatic notifications as they approach 50 percent and 75 percent of their spent budget."

It is up to the customer to stop or keep betting when alerts are received, and enrollment and ending enrollment is also at the customer's discretion, officials said.

Crosby said developing play management systems collaborative with MGM and Wynn makes the process more "nimble and flexible," in contrast to the potential for a clumsy, time-consuming regulatory process. The Gaming Commission will set the standards for the play management system, with the casinos responding to those guidelines, he said.

The casinos have shown themselves to be good corporate citizens to date on isses such as preservation and diversity, Crosby said.

MGM unveils problem-gambling prevention efforts

GameSense is a program of the British Columbia Lottery Corp. in Canada.

Play management is a "voluntary opt-in program" that is intended for frequent casino customers such as player award or loyalty cardholders, officials said.

Under the system, the cardholder might be asked if he or she would like to set up a budget, and how much. When at the limit, the customer would be asked if he or she wants to continue to play, adjust the budget or end playing, Crosby said.

Representatives of the Gaming Commission's responsible gaming and gaming technology staff recommended regulations for play management, but commission members opted for the collaborative option.