November 13, 2018

Preventing Problem Gambling in Massachusetts

Greater access to gaming can lead to a rise in problem gambling. Communities and casinos are working together to address the issue.

In 2011, Massachusetts passed a law that allowed for the expansion of gambling activities within the state. But while casino revenues can bring positive change in the form of infrastructure improvements, greater access to gaming can also lead to a rise in problem gambling.

Rebecca Bishop, manager of problem gambling prevention for the Massachusetts Technical Assistance Partnership for Prevention (MassTAPP) at EDC, is helping communities in the state develop public health programs and campaigns that address problem gambling. In this podcast, she discusses who is most at risk for problem gambling and how communities and casinos are working together on prevention.

On who’s at risk for developing a problem gambling disorder

Bishop: When you look at who actually gambles recreationally . . . the group that gambles more is white men. But when you look at who develops a problem with gambling, it’s actually black men. When you dig a little bit deeper, people who make $24,000 or less [annually] develop problem gambling more than any other group . . . So there is a pattern here, and a population that emerges, and so we really focus on that population.

On the impact casinos have on communities

Bishop: Publicly, casinos are talked about as a really good economic thing. We’ve seen infrastructure improvements—roads are being built, new buildings are being built—which residents really like . . . but what we do know from prevention and public health is that there are going to be some negative impacts. And that’s really what we have been looking at.

On what role casinos are playing in prevention efforts

Bishop: Casinos are absolutely paying for all of the prevention dollars and services. And it’s a unique model. The 2011 law that expanded casinos is the same law that mandated they put dollars in a fund to pay for this. It’s really a progressive way to think about prevention.