Boston Casino To Test First-Ever Responsible Gaming System

By McCarton Ackerman 06/03/16

The casino's “Play My Way” system will give slot machine betters periodic on-screen notifications as they approach, reach and surpass their limit.

Boston Casino To Test First-Ever Responsible Gaming System

A casino in Boston is the first in the nation to give slot players the option to limit their bets via the "Play My Way" system.

The new system is expected to go live this week in all 1,250 slot machines at Plainridge Park, a harness racing track and slots parlor in the town of Plainville, Massachusetts. According to the Boston Herald, the casino received help in launching the feature from both the state’s gaming commission and the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling. The "Play My Way" system gives bettors periodic on-screen notifications as they approach or reach their limit. 

However, the program is voluntary and will start out as a feature limited to players who are part of the casino’s rewards card program. Even if a bettor reaches or surpasses their limit, they still won’t be cut off from continuing to bet.

“Any responsible gaming tool should be targeted to assist the small minority of players that may confront irresponsible play without harming the entertainment experience for nearly all players who enjoy our entertainment experience responsibly," said American Gaming Association (AGA) spokesman Christopher Moyer. “We’re optimistic this tool will help to achieve this goal.”

However, not everyone is as optimistic. Despite Moyer’s comments, the pilot program initially received pushback from people within the AGA and several Massachusetts casino operators. The critics cited data that similar “play management” programs in other countries including Australia and Canada have not been effective in deterring problem gambling.

Marlene Warner, executive director of the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling, admitted that the system isn’t designed to treat or dissuade people with a current gambling addiction. “It’s truly a prevention tool,” she said. "We want people to keep gambling in a way that's healthy and safe for them, so that it doesn't rise to that problematic level. It’s just a tool to make that person aware of what’s happening and the decisions they’re making.”

If the program proves to be successful, it could have significant implications on casinos across Massachusetts. The state’s gambling commission said it is considering adopting the program at two state-regulated casinos still in development. The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, which is building the First Light casino on sovereign land in the town of Taunton, also said they will watch how the program unfolds before deciding whether to implement it when they open their doors next year.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.