More problem gamblers are banning themselves from Mass. casinos

There is a program for gamblers to blacklist themselves if they feel they have a problem.

Boston 25 News has learned more people are taking the drastic step of banning themselves from Massachusetts casinos. There is a program for gamblers to blacklist themselves if they feel they have a problem.

Beyond the slot machines and bright lights, tucked away in the corner of Encore Boston Harbor is a small desk that most people might not notice. But that little kiosk is a lifeline for gamblers who are out of control.

“We get them at probably their lowest state,” said Ray Fluette, the supervisor at GameSense, part of the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling.

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GameSense allows gamblers to essentially ban themselves from the casino. It’s called “voluntary self-exclusion.”

"They've lost too much money, they're not spending enough time with their family or friends, they're lying, they could be embezzling, there's many different reasons," Fluette said.

Let's say someone feels like he or she has been gambling too much. They may have a problem and want to bar himself or herself from the casino. That person has to find one of the GameSense desks, present his or her driver's license, go through an interview and then they'll scan that driver's license into the system.

Then it's up to that person to decide how long he or she wants to be barred from the casino. One year, three, or five years; and once he or she has committed, there is no backing out.

Enrollment numbers show more gamblers are taking advantage of the program. The three Massachusetts casinos averaged around 35 registrations each month last year. In the first week of 2020, there’s already been 21.

Encore Boston Harbor Casino averaged around four self-exclusions per week in 2019. They’re already up to 13 in the new year.

"They're finally here saying, ‘I need some help,’” said Mark Vanderlinden, the director of research and responsible gaming for the Mass. Gaming Commission.

Vanderlinden helped launch the program. He believes the rising number is a combination of New Years’ resolutions and the novelty of the new casinos wearing off.

“This is the type of program that can help them start getting that help," he said.

"They feel relieved that they can drive by a casino and know that they can't turn into that parking lot and go there on any given day," Fluette added.

If you’re one of the gamblers who need help, Fluette says his team isn’t hard to find. Just look for their dark green shirts.