Massachusetts Gaming Commission examines casino advertising practices

Even before the state’s first resort casino opened, there was a “significant increase” in the number of people with gambling problems who relapsed in Massachusetts and the Gaming Commission pointed to this. situation on Monday as it began to consider updates to its rules regarding gambling and betting advertising.

Until MGM Springfield opened on August 24, 2018, the only legal betting option for Massachusetts gamblers was the Plainridge Park Casino slot parlor in Plainville. But the planned opening of MGM — the first Las Vegas-style resort casino to open since Massachusetts legalized casino gambling in 2011 — grabbed headlines in the summer of 2018, and researchers from the Commission on gambling said the advertising was harmful to people with gambling problems, who are more likely than non-gamers to be influenced by gambling promotions and advertisements.

“This increase in gambling publicity and media attention aligned with these high rates of problem gambling, indicating that these problem gambling relapses were likely not due to physical availability to gamble – because that the casino was not open – but rather due to increased publicity and media attention before the casino opened,” said Marie-Claire Flores Pajot, head of research, referring to the discovery of ‘a six-year study problem gambling in Massachusetts.

As they prepare for the possibility of being tasked with regulating sports betting, members of the Mass. Gaming Commission reported a serious interest master industry advertising practices, which have been critical as too saturating and irresponsible.

The commissioners have shown an interest in exploring regulations – many of which could overlap with existing regulations on casino game advertising – that could help protect problem gamblers, people under 21 and demographic groups particularly at risk of gambling. experience problem gambling in Massachusetts, including men and people from low-income groups.

“What makes me happy is that we are starting this conversation. I had thought it was a little late,” President Cathy Judd-Stein said. “And I think that with the commissioner [Brad] the arrival of Hill, you and I both recognize that at least as far as sports betting was concerned, we were seeing such a proliferation of advertisements that it was probably a good time to really review – this had been looked at in the past – but to look at it through even a new lens since 2014 and into the next few years.”

The commission’s research team presented a white paper which covered current gambling advertising regulations in Massachusetts and other states, an overview of research related to problem gambling and advertising, and a litany of additional strategies or actions that commissioners might consider moving forward.

“Advertising to sell a product or service is nothing new. In recent years, however, advertising practices have become particularly widespread; it is no longer about television commercials, billboards and advertisements in newspapers. Advertising today uses user-specific data collected through social media and other means to deliver highly targeted ads through our smartphones and other screens,” said Mark Vander Linden, Director of commission’s research and responsible gambling.” On the surface, it appears that it’s the free market at stake. But gambling is not a risk-free activity, and therefore commissioners might consider additional measures to and/or contain Massachusetts gambling advertising by our licensees and their parent companies. to minimize damage.”

The state’s three gambling licensees are already prohibited from targeting anyone under the age of 21 with their advertisements or messages and from marketing to anyone who has signed up for the self-list. -voluntary exclusion from the commission. Marketing or promotional materials should also include information on seeking help for a gambling problem.

The commission also adopted a Responsible Gambling Framework which states that Massachusetts casinos “should develop and implement strategies to ensure that advertising and promotions are delivered responsibly…including messages related to the promotion positive gambling and advertising problem gambling resources”.

The white paper presented at Monday’s meeting suggested additional measures: prohibit advertising “placed with such intensity and frequency as to saturate that communication medium, or in some cases, that location”; require that a portion of each licensee’s marketing and advertising budget be dedicated to responsible gaming messaging; establish a process by which advertising violations could be reported; requiring mandatory training for casino officials involved in advertising and marketing; and conduct more research on the impact of gambling advertising on Massachusetts residents.

One recommendation that caught the attention of several commissioners was the adoption of a restriction for gambling advertisements similar to what the Cannabis Control Commission has put in place for marijuana businesses.

Under this model, gambling operators would be prohibited from advertising on television, radio, the Internet, mobile apps, social media, other electronic communications, billboards billboards, other outdoor advertisements or in print publications, unless at least 85% of the audience is “reasonably expected to be 21 years of age or older based on data on the composition of the hearing. For the marijuana companies, it meant a focus on billboards and digital media like podcasts.

“I would like us to take a deep look at the cannabis commission,” Judd-Stein said. “They’re in Massachusetts, they know how we ride in Massachusetts. So I like looking at their regulations and I’m particularly interested in – well, I think a few have pointed this out – the fourth ban on advertising and around around 85% of the audience.”

It is not only the content of advertisements that interests the Gaming Commission, but also the ubiquity of advertisements.

“I think what I’m most concerned about right now – and I suspect it’s because the rollout of sports betting – is the frequency or intensity of ad distribution, the prevalence,” said Judd Stein. “Content can be great, can’t it? It can be great. But if it just hits us, hits us…and then of course, if sports betting were to be legalized in Massachusetts, that prevalence would just become a very important question.”

The Gambling Commission took no action on the advertisement on Monday, but agreed with Vander Linden that it should accept public comment on the white paper. A public comment period, likely to last longer than two weeks, is expected to be the next step as the Gambling Commission prepares for the possibility of sports betting being made legal in the Bay State.

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