SPRINGFIELD (CBS) – Play responsibly, that’s the message of the GameSense program inside the new MGM Springfield hotel and casino. It’s something required by law in all Mass. casinos. The program is designed to educate players on the risks, and help curb gambling addiction.
Right next to the flashing slot machines at the new MGM casino in Springfield is a first aid station of sorts, run by the Mass Council on Compulsive Gambling and funded by the state’s Gaming Commission. And everyone is welcome.
“To learn more about what they’re doing. How games work. What are the odds of winning. It’s also a program to help people connect to treatment and resources outside the casino,” says Marlene Warner, the Executive Director of the Mass Council on Compulsive Gambling.
GameSense is staffed 16 hours a day, seven days a week by advisors who not only work the desk, they also walk around the casino, striking up conversations and building relationships with regulars.
“So they are going to be connecting with them and say, ‘hey Joe, how’s your budget going? You’ve talked to me about wanting to play less or wanting to spend within a certain range, how’s that going?’ So they’re kind of that checkpoint,” Warner says.
One study estimates that about 2% of the Massachusetts population has a serious gambling problem. That’s upwards of 130,000 people. And while most people gamble responsibly, some are going to get into trouble because gambling can be addictive.
“I was a problem gambler, a compulsive gambler, however you want to put it,” says a man we’ll call ‘Tony.” He gambled for 40 years, mostly on dog races. “I always felt it pulling me there. I was thinking about it first thing when I woke up in the morning, last thing when I went to bed,” he says.
Tony eventually got help through Gamblers Anonymous. GameSense can direct people to that resource and many others. “We want them to know that there’s always options to talk to people at GameSense. That we do care. We are here solely for them and we can get them connected to whatever help they need,” says Warner.
Some of the warning signs of problem gambling: lying about what you’re doing, placing gambling above personal and family responsibilities and gambling with money you need to pay the bills.
Gambling Addiction Resources:
Mass Council helpline: 800-426-1234
Gamblers Anonymous helpline: 855-222-5542