When voters in Massachusetts passed an expanded gambling bill in 2011 (which recently survived a referendum to abolish it) part of the law mandated that  the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) minimize any negative consequences of gambling in the state. It was recently announced here and elsewhere that the MGC would undertake a study and publish data to set a scientific baseline to benchmark the reality of gambling, rather than the fear mongering on one side and possible hype on the other side of the contentious issue. Ahead of the data, the MGC has decided to take a proactive approach to help players set their own limits.

In a 5-0 vote the Massachusetts Gaming Commission decided to implement a “Play Management System” in cooperation with Penn National Gaming when the Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, Massachusetts opens in June of 2015. Penn was awarded the only current slots license in the state  on February 18, 2014 and broke ground on the casino less than a month later. Players will have the option to set a personal limit on the amount they bet and track their spending through their players club card. Similar programs in Norway and elsewhere in Europe display pop-ups on the gaming machine screen when players reach certain percentages of their limits. Play is tracked from machine to machine and personal limitation information can be accessed on any machine in play, at the player rewards center, and at special kiosks throughout a property.

Such self limitations as well as self-exclusions are common in other countries with easily accessible in-person gambling, but none has ever been implemented by a gambling commission in the US. So much for the “moral high-ground” claimed by some opponents of online gambling. It should also be noted that where online gambling is regulated, rules are in place for self exclusion with some forward thinking casinos taking responsible gambling to the next level by allowing players to set total deposit limits. The MGC decision to start out on the right foot is commendable and worthy of praise. One can only wonder at the policies the Commonwealth will put in place once they have gathered cold hard facts  to steer further objective policy decisions.

Having the knowledge will allow the Commonwealth to reach its highest possible economic good with their new economic gambling engine, and the Play Management System will give gamblers a way to prevent unnecessary hardships if they are inexperienced, or undisciplined players. As this pilot program is voluntary, customers can probably expect some sort of incentive such as free play or multiple reward points for using it.