Massachusetts went live with a test of a first-of-its-kind system that allows land-based casino slot players to set budgets before they begin to wager and, honestly, I’m really not sure what to make of it.
The system, called PlayMyWay, is a “new responsible gaming initiative that provides casino patrons with a voluntary option to budget and track their play,” according to a press release issued by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC), the program’s sponsor. Officially unveiled last month at Plainridge Park Casino (PPC), PlayMyWay offers casino patrons who sign up for the program, “a tool with the ability to monitor the amount of money they spend on electronic gaming machines and to support their decision to continue or stop play.”
PlayMyWay, which is currently only available for PPC reward card members, works as follows: The computerized program will prompt card holders to voluntarily choose a daily, weekly and/or monthly budget to track their spending at PPC. Once enrolled, patrons will receive automatic notifications on the slot screen as they approach 50 percent and 75 percent of the spent budget. Players will also receive a notification when they reach 100 percent of the budget and if they continue to play, notifications will be received at 25 percent intervals. This program is strictly voluntary and a player can un-enroll or adjust the budget at any time. A player can also choose to stop at any point or keep playing.
It has been reported that 225 people signed on for PlayMyWay the first day it was offered. If the program proves a success, the Wynn and MGM casinos, currently under development in Everett and Springfield, will likely have to adopt the technology as well.
Not surprisingly, the Associated Press reported state casino operators and the American Gaming Association initially “voiced reservations” about PlayMyWay. Subsequent meeting with the MGC allayed concerns for the AGA however. "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," AGA spokesman Christopher Moyer told the Associated Press. "We're optimistic this tool will help to achieve this goal."
Indeed, at first glance, it is hard to find anything truly troubling about PlayMyWay. After all, the program, though mandated by the state, is totally voluntary for players. Unless a large number of casino patrons sign up for PlayMyWay, it is unlikely it will have a substantive impact on property revenues and the bottom line.
On the other hand, the entire program does smack of a “nanny state” political mindset; especially when one considers PlayMyWay will do little to curb problem gamblers. “An addictive gambler is not going to use this,” Krystle Kelly, director of development and communications for the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling told the Boston Globe. “It’s for the entertainment gambler.” One may ask why people who view gambling as entertainment and have the economic means to do so need this extra level of oversight.
There is some solace for those who think the gaming industry is being unfairly targeted by programs such as PlayMyWay—similar “play management” policies and technologies have reportedly been less than effective in nations such as Australia, Canada, Norway and Sweden. Although PlayMyWay is supposedly an improvement on these programs, it is no sure bet to succeed in Massachusetts.