Massachusetts has been anticipating the upcoming installment of several land-based casino resorts since the state approved the issuance of up to four licenses for suitable operators in 2011. Three licenses have already been granted, but officials are still ironing out some of the regulatory details. Yesterday, the Gaming Commission approved a pilot program that will require the Plainville slots parlor at Plainridge Racecourse to supply voluntary spending limits to gamblers on all electronic gaming devices and slot machines.
Stephen Crosby, Chairman of the Gaming Commission, said that no other “play management” program of this nature has ever been attempted in a United States casino. Crosby noted that the gambling industry has historically been “very reluctant to even consider” such a system. However, the commission believes it is a necessary achievement, as mandated by the state, to ensure the minimization of “negative consequences” from the newly regulated, soon to be adapted casino market.
The new systems will be adapted at the upcoming Plainridge Racecourse when the slots parlor, licensed to Penn National, opens in mid-2015. Plainridge has already begun promoting the upcoming slots parlor as the first Massachusetts casino, poised to offer slot machines, video poker and electronic video blackjack. The commission anticipates a 2-year testing period for the technology, which aligns perfectly with the projected 2017 opening of a Wynn Resorts casino property in Everett and an MGM casino in Springfield.
The commission is hoping to have a preliminary version of the technology installed by June 30th, 2015, “which is around the launch date,” wrote Crosby in yesterday’s memo. “That’s ideal, but it’s not a certainty.” He explained that the software could require additional testing and tweaking beyond that date.
Once successfully installed, players of the slot machines and video gaming machines would have the option of enrolling in the play management system. Officials are encouraging enrollment to be as convenient as possible, allowing players to enroll directly on a gaming machine, or at kiosks and service stations located throughout the casino.
From there, players would be able to set up a spending limit. If a player reaches that limit, they would no longer be able to place wagers until the self-appointed spending limit expires. It was not specified whether spending limits could be set for a single day, week, month, etc., but Crosby did say that the system could be implemented as a feature of each casino’s loyalty club card program. Hence, being a club card holder would not require enrollment, but enrollment would require possession of a club card.
As for the potential price of the play management plan, Crosby noted that “A specific cost to implement and maintain a system is difficult to determine, but does not appear cost prohibitive.” He went on to explain that other regions that have adopted similar requirements (such as Australia, where studies have indicated problem gambling to be at its worst), paid a high cost to develop the technology. “Since that time, the technology has become increasingly effective and cost-efficient which would likely benefit Massachusetts if play management tools are adopted.”
Once the estimated 2-year testing period is concluded, the commission will reconvene to examine the results of the trial. If it proves beneficial to the state, play management systems will be adopted at all Massachusetts casinos.