Gambling research already underway

In response to “Between the Lines: Problem gambling data collection is coming too late,” published Jan. 16-22, 2020.

On January 15, 2020, the Valley Advocate published an editorial about the importance of problem gambling-related research, including the need for baseline data. We agree with the editor that research on the broad range of casino impacts in Massachusetts is critical to the state’s ability to develop effective policies and programs. In fact, the research referenced in the editorial, and more, is already in place and well underway.

The Legislature included a key feature in the gaming law, establishing a first-of-its-kind research plan to comprehensively assess the social and economic impacts of casino gambling in Massachusetts. The Legislature established a clear mandate to develop a research agenda that required a comprehensive baseline study followed by a repeated, in-depth longitudinal analysis. The MGC has enthusiastically embraced this mandate and has commissioned a robust and comprehensive study of expanded gaming.

The MGC has adopted a data-driven approach to understanding casino impacts to inform the design of evidence-based programming, particularly in the area of problem gambling.

A baseline study of gambling behavior prior to the opening of the first Massachusetts casino concluded that approximately 2% of Western Massachusetts adult residents meet criteria for problem gambling and 8% are experiencing harm to a lesser degree. These rates roughly mirror the state-wide rates. Additional research shows that remission from the symptoms of problem gambling is common; however, these individuals remain at risk. These findings underscore the importance of developing a mitigation and educational outreach program that offers a variety of options to support safe play, harm reduction, and abstinence.

Later this year, the Commission plans to release a report of gambling behaviors and attitudes of Western Massachusetts residents a year after MGM Springfield opened. This report promises valuable information about how gambling and problem gambling has changed in the region in order to inform resource allocation.

Research findings emphasize the diverse needs of casino players, so in 2015 the MGC launched GameSense, an innovative, player-focused responsible gaming program, encouraging players to adopt behaviors and attitudes that promote safe levels of play and reduce the risk of gambling-related harm. It is also worth noting that Massachusetts is the only gaming jurisdiction in the country to require responsible gaming resources (GameSense Info Centers and GameSense Advisors) at each casino property.

An early evaluation of the program offers an encouraging outlook on its impact and effectiveness. Research findings indicate that 54% of surveyed patrons had a high degree of program awareness, 98% of patrons surveyed were satisfied with the information provided by GameSense advisors, and 44% went on to say that the program changed the way they think about their gambling behavior.

As the Commonwealth’s casino industry continues to grow and mature, the MGC, in partnership with our many stakeholders, looks forward to identifying ways to innovate and improve on policies and programs, guided firmly by research, evaluation and analysis.

— Mark Vander Linden, MGC Director of Research and Responsible Gaming

Modeling empathy

In response to “Clueless Parent: Trying to teach a 3-year-old about justice,” published Jan. 23-29, 2020.

At the toddler stage, I think modeling empathy is one way to help a child experience fairness vs. unfairness. When a child doesn’t want to share toys or food, you can empathize with their feelings of sadness and then you can turn things around and ask, “Would you feel happy if I gave your favorite toy or your share of a favorite food to someone else?” Sharing, fairness and empathy can be taught to very young children by example and by discussion of feelings that come up when a child feels bullied or treated unfairly. This is the start.

— Emma Stamas, Facebook comment

On progressive unity

In response to Between the Lines: We can’t afford to let them divide us,” published Jan. 23-29, 2020.

I think she [Warren] may have heard with “woke” ears, even after the fact, whereas Bernie may have stated whatever he said in a way that wasn’t perfect. Both can be right, though I don’t respect the way the Warren campaign used that “gotcha” moment to blindside Sanders. I sent an extra donation to him after the whole kerfuffle this week. Money talks, and maybe with the surge of new donations, campaigns will begin to realize that going negative this way won’t pay.

— Suzanne Farrington, Facebook comment

Bernie needs to go. His campaign and team are shameless.

— Don Toohey, Facebook comment

Good editorial, Dave. Thanks! At the risk of adding to the lifespan of this issue I’d like to address one thing. You write: “I do believe Warren heard what she said she heard from Sanders. But I’m also willing to believe Sanders that he does believe that a woman can win, as he said during a recent debate …” Maybe this is splitting hairs, but I think we can actually believe them both — that Warren believes she heard it and that Sanders didn’t say it. As we know, people mishear, misinterpret, misremember all the time. My only question is: what was Warren’s purpose in bringing it up right before the debate, if not to try to take some of the shine off Bernie? Oh well, it’s politics (sigh) and I still admire them both — they are heads and shoulders above your average politicians in oh, so many ways!

— Kathleen Mellen, Facebook comment

I’m not divided, I’m straight up for Bernie like I have been for decades.

— Susan Foertsch Kaminski, Facebook comment