Some are Just Saying No in Massachusetts

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Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics reacts during a game against the Golden State Warriors. Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images/AFP

Rolling the dice, playing blackjack, or pulling a slot is a great way to pass the time for many people. It’s a form of recreation, a hobby if you will, similar to those who like to fish, golf, or hike. Like anything else, it’s great for some but holds no interest for others.

But a small fraction of those who enjoy a visit to the casino, enjoy it a little too much. And while anti-gambling zealots will have you believe these numbers are greater than they actually are, or one addict is too many, the fact is that most people don’t bet the rent on the spin of a roulette wheel. Most people bet because it’s fun.

Some spend a few hundred bucks on a round of golf and a few hundred more at the pro shop before they call it a day. Oh wait, the 19th hole doesn’t come cheap either. A couple of beers and a burger later, before you know it, you’re into the chichi country club course for a nickel.

If you have the discretionary income then have at it, if you don’t then you go the public course or the driving range. It’s your money, you’re an adult, you make the choice.

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Coping Mechanisms

And while we are all for blazing our own path and calling our own shots, there will always be a small fraction of the population who are unable to control themselves. And because of that, there are a few mechanisms in place to assist problem gamblers.

There is the ubiquitous Gambler’s Anonymous Hotline that can be seen at every gambling establishment in America and a Problem Gambling Helpline phone number on the back of every scratch ticket in the Bay State.

But there is also something called the Voluntary Self-Exclusion (VSE) program in Massachusetts – and elsewhere – that allows gamblers who believe they are out of control to voluntarily exclude themselves from casinos across the state. This self-help program comes courtesy of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and nearly 1300 people have enrolled since 2015.

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Anyone can sign up for the banishment and there are four levels which include one year (28% of enrollees), three years (16% of enrollees), five years (53% of enrollees), or a self-imposed lifetime ban (3% of enrollees). There are currently 1020 people in the program, 70 percent are male, and the median age is 46-years-old.

Mark Vander Linden, the Gaming Commission’s director of research and responsible gaming, said, “I want to say that these numbers of enrollments are impressive and it’s a milestone. But I also want to say that it represents just a small percentage of the number of people that we know in Massachusetts struggle to control their gambling.

“I think that we should be proud that we have a program that is there to honor and support a person’s decision to stop gambling,” he added.

No Massive Collapse of Society

And so do we. We also believe that, based on that logic, peanut butter could be outlawed because some have peanut allergies and boating could also be verboten in the Commonwealth because, ya know, drowning and boating accidents.

It took Bay State legislators over 20 years to approve full casino gambling in the state after watching billions of Massachusetts dollars cross the border and directly funneled into Connecticut’s Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun coffers.

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Since the first full casino opened in Massachusetts, August of 2018, there has been no societal breakdown or massive collapse of social mores due to problem gamblers roaming the streets, breaking into retail stores, or assaulting innocent civilians.

What Massachusetts does have is a new revenue stream and help available for the precious few who might need it.