When you gamble, use your GameSense. That’s the message MGM Resorts International is sharing with its customers across North America — including the MGM Springfield complex set to open in the fall of 2018 — as part of an agreement with BCLC, British Columbia’s provincial gambling corporation, to license its responsible-gambling program, GameSense. MGM anticipates having GameSense fully integrated into all its U.S. properties by the end of 2017.
“We believe it’s our role to take the lead in providing better responsible-gambling programming that supports our players, helps reduce harm, and strengthens the gaming industry as a whole,” said Jim Lightbody, BCLC president and CEO. “We are thrilled MGM Resorts recognizes the value of our GameSense program, and wants to align with us to further the positive role it can play in reducing gambling-related harm.”
Introduced in 2009, GameSense is a player-focused, responsible-gambling program that encourages players to adopt behaviors and attitudes that can reduce the risk of developing gambling disorders. This includes setting and sticking to personally allocated time and monetary limits for gambling, as well as being open and honest with family, friends, and oneself when it comes to personal gambling habits.
GameSense has earned international recognition such as the Best Overall Responsible Gambling Program from the World Lottery Assoc. (2010) and the National Council on Problem Gambling’s Social Responsibility Award (2015). In addition to being licensed and piloted at MGM Resort International casino properties, the program has been implemented by the Connecticut Lottery, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, and three Canadian provinces.
Problem gambling is an issue that has long plagued casinos and others in the gaming industry. Approximately 3 million to 4 million Americans are classified as pathological gamblers, and some 1.7% of the adult population in Massachusetts has a gambling disorder, according to the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling (MCCG).
Meanwhile, approximately 7.5% of Massachusetts adults are at-risk gamblers, demonstrating gambling behaviors that put them at risk of developing a gambling disorder — and that’s before casinos begin to dot the Bay State landscape.
According to Scientific American, research shows that pathological gamblers and drug addicts share many of the same genetic predispositions for impulsivity and reward seeking. Moreover, neuroscientists have learned that drugs and gambling alter many of the same brain circuits in similar ways. This new understanding of compulsive gambling has helped scientists redefine addiction itself.
“The past idea was that you need to ingest a drug that changes neurochemistry in the brain to get addicted, but we now know that just about anything we do alters the brain,” Timothy Fong, a psychiatrist and addiction expert at UCLA, told the publication. “It makes sense that some highly rewarding behaviors, like gambling, can cause dramatic [physical] changes, too.”
According to the MCCG, a person shows signs of gambling disorder if he or she:
- Needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money to achieve the desired excitement;
- Exhibits restless or irritable behavior when attempting to cut down or stop gambling;
- Is often preoccupied with thoughts about gambling;
- Often gambles when feeling distress (e.g., helpless, guilty, anxious, depressed);
- Chases one’s losses another day to get even;
- Lies to conceal the extent of gambling;
- Jeopardizes a significant relationship, job, or opportunity because of gambling; or
- Relies on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situations caused by gambling.
From a behavioral-health angle, the council reported, 72% of people with gambling disorders also experience alcohol disorders, 38% experience drug-use disorders, and 60% are dependent on nicotine. Furthermore, 50% present mood disorders, 41% manifest anxiety disorders, and 61% suffer from personality disorders.
It’s a Start
As a result, casino operators must tread a line between making their games alluring and not creating more problems for compulsive gamblers. GameSense, which incorporates strategies from budgeting tools to voluntary self-exclusion from casinos — which can be enforced for any number of set time periods — is a step in the right direction, said Alan Feldman, MGM Resorts International’s executive vice president of Global Industry Affairs.
“MGM is excited to adopt the GameSense platform and to form this dynamic research enterprise,” he noted. “Our vision for GameSense is to transform the guest experience at our properties by providing a program that is rooted in enhanced customer service, player education, and leading research.”
As part of the agreement, MGM will contribute $1 million over five years to a research partnership between itself, BCLC, and the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. UNLV will help facilitate development of a consortium of internationally renowned experts in responsible gambling, and will also work closely with the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Gambling Research. This will include a multi-faceted research project to enhance GameSense and other responsible-gambling programs based on data-driven expertise in responsible gambling.