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Program meant to prevent gambling abuse in Massachusetts gearing up for sports betting

MGM Springfield launches in-person sports betting on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023,  now that it is legal in Massachusetts.
Adam Frenier
MGM Springfield launches in-person sports betting on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, now that it is legal in Massachusetts.

The casino program designated by regulators to watch out for problem gamblers in Massachusetts is gearing up for sports betting, which just became legal.

Regulators implemented the program — called GameSense — as part of the state's casino legislation. It's meant to teach gamblers how to play responsibly, including understanding the low odds of winning and, in some cases, helping people ban themselves from betting, known as "voluntary self-exclusion."

Chelsea Turner is with the Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health, which runs GameSense. She said their workers have been taking lessons from sports betting companies.

"What we're specifically interested in learning more about is, what are the different types of wagers? Which kinds of wagers are riskier than others If a patron is going to be asking us questions?" said Turner.

GameSense is also offering sports-related swag — like squishy balls and T-shirts — to promote the program.

So far, Turner said, sports gamblers — who tend to see their activity as more skill-based than luck-based — are not always receptive to advice from GameSense personnel.

"When we're having conversations, sometimes they're a little bit of harder nut to crack," she said, "as far as getting some engagement."

Karen Brown is a radio and print journalist who focuses on health care, mental health, children’s issues, and other topics about the human condition. She has been a full-time radio reporter for NEPM since 1998.

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