A casino trying to keep its patrons from becoming addicted to gambling seems like a self-defeating purpose, like a bar that holds AA meetings. However, casinos are not really the sort of seedy establishment that TV and movies want us to think they are. Moreover, the notion of responsible gambling is that unheard-of, either. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is on the final stages of a one of a kind method in which slot players would be allowed to limit their bets. This will be the consummation of months of planning – it might not have taken as long but they did have to take into account the concerns of local casino operators.
The idea is to help prevent casual gamblers from going down the downward spiral of addiction, according to executive director of the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling Marlene Warner. The program, which is called Play My Way, is a preventive feature and thus not necessarily aimed at people with severe gambling issues (also known as slot-jockeys) – the sort of people who are enslaved by the gambling monster called Gamblor; these people need professional help in order to be snatched away from its neon claws.
Basically, the idea is not for people to stop gambling – that would just be crazy – but to do it in a healthy and safe way, so that it does not escalate into an uncontrollable problem. The system is on trial at Plainridge Park, the slots parlor and harness racing track in Plainville and the only operating casino in Massachusetts. If the results are successful, it could be fully implemented on the approximately 1,250 slot machines at the Casino starting on June 1st, as well as two other state-regulated casinos currently being develop; Wynn’s Boston-area resort and MGM’s Springfield. Maybe one day we could even see it applied to online gambling.
The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, which is recognized by the Federal Government, is developing its very own casino and resort on sovereign land in Tauton, and also considering the system. Though they are as silent as Chief Bromden as to whether they might enforce this or a similar system, by the time their first casino opens in 2017 we will probably know more about Play My Way and how well it fares. If Australia, Canada, Norway, Sweden, and other countries are to be taken as examples, it may not be effective, which is what Massachusetts casino operators and the Washington-based American Gaming Association claimed at first.
However, Christopher Moyer of the American Gaming Association said they have had “productive conversations” with Massachusetts casino operators and were able to address most of their concerns. Play My Way is neither a compulsory system nor does it require gamblers to stop ‘cold turkey,’ in the parlance of our times. For example, some ‘self-exclusion’ programs in many casinos in the U.S. ban enrolled gamblers from betting at casinos altogether. But in this new system gamblers enroll voluntarily – and can cancel anytime – so that they can receive onscreen notifications (which does help the case that it could be applied to online gambling) that they are nearing their limit. At no point are they required to quit gambling unless it is of their own volition. Furthermore, their betting limits are not set in stone and can be changed at leisure.