A recent study of 1,500 gamblers in Massachusetts indicates a clear need for improvement in literacy. Apparently they are not very savvy about the risks of certain games and the role of strategies like setting limits.
It is all there in a Canadian consultancy reported to the Gaming Commission. It set out to determine beliefs and behaviors to compare with other regions, including Canada. Is there rampant irresponsibility everywhere?
The findings were presented by Dr. Richard Wood, a psychologist who specializes in the study of gaming behavior for the firm, Gamres. He used a survey to assess personal responsibility, gambling literacy, honesty and control, and pre-commitment.
The statistics show that 77% scored high on the personal responsibility metric. They clearly understand the need to gamble only within their means. Another 17% scored in the medium range, while 6% scored low in personal responsibility.
Honesty and the control metric show if players know when it’s time to stop gambling. As for gambling literacy, 37.5% had high positive play scores, with 34.4% scoring in the medium range and 28.1% assessed as having low gambling literacy.
On pre-commitment measured strategies like going into the casino with a firm limit on wagers or losses. Here 58% of Massachusetts players scored high, 28% scored in the middle and about 14 percent ranked low. According to Wood,
“Straight away, we can see that gambling literacy and pre-commitment certainly
are areas that would benefit from a little bit more focus going forward.”
Wood looked into the age of players as well, finding that older plays are more responsible and know the risks better. It is basic psychology.
“As players gamble over time they get more experienced, they learn
more about the games and get more exposed to responsible gambling
initiatives. And being young is more of a time, in general, for risk-taking.”
In terms of comparisons, Wood found that the Massachusetts gamblers had very similar to players in four other U.S. states. Of note, U.S. gamblers were more likely than Canadian gamblers to score in the medium or low ranges. It might be related to the amount of money put toward responsible gaming efforts.
“In terms of responsible gaming, I would say that Canada and
Scandinavia are really kind of the leaders in terms of responsible gambling,
they put a lot of resources into responsible gambling initiatives.”
Casino and tax revenues can address problem gambling prevention along with mitigation programs and services. In Massachusetts, GameSense is used by the Gaming Commission for its comprehensive responsible gaming strategy.
Wood has recommended responsible gambling initiatives to increase gambling literacy and promoting pre-commitment strategies. One is called “anchoring”, where players are told the average amount that a jackpot or other winner bet. It comes down to good communication.
It is all about changing behavior and attitudes through education. Wood also recommended that Massachusetts and other states cease using the phrase “responsible gambling” as it provokes negative connotations.
“We need to think about the more general language around it. Instead
of saying things like ‘limit setting’ or ‘budgets,’ which don’t sound like
very much fun at all, we could talk about ‘saving my money’ or ‘my bankroll.'”
Mark Vander Linden, director of research and responsible gaming for the Gaming Commission, can now use the GameSense program to do better in a measurable way.
“That is a really valuable piece of what we’ll be able to take from this. We’re not
going lightyears ahead and introducing entirely new programs, we’re talking about incremental changes along the way to become the best program we can.”