Science shows that Massachusetts gamblers haven't a clue

Jon Pill
Posted on: February 15, 2021 08:00 PST

A study of 1,512 gamblers in Massachusetts has found that while most gamblers in the state rate well in personal responsibility, the majority don't know the rules of the games they play.

The research was conducted by — and try not to snicker — one Dr. Richard Wood of GamRes, a research company that promotes responsible gambling. Wood put the study together to draw the attention of Bay State regulators to areas of improvement.

Wood reported that of the gamblers surveyed, just 37.5% scored high on "gambling literacy". The rest were split between medium (34.4%) and low (28.1%). Gambling literacy was defined for this study as awareness of things like the rules of the games.

MA gamblers scored well in "personal responsibility," with 77% getting high marks in that area. This is about the same as in other parts of the States. But it's much lower than in Canada and Scandinavia. Citizens of the Commonwealth also scored well in "honesty and control," the last of the four areas examined.

“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 told the Gaming Commission.

With great responsibility

The results of the study are perhaps not as shocking as they initially sound. While it would be tough to get through a poker game without a good sense of how the rules work, that's not true for many table games.

For example, you don't need an intricate grasp of the rules of blackjack to get by. So long as you know how to stick or twist and that the goal is to get close to — but not over — twenty-one, the dealer can handle the finer points of payouts, doubling, and insurance.

The vast majority of "gamblers" in this context are casual players who visit a casino every now and again to blow off some steam.

For the purpose of the study "gamblers" just meant the participants had visited a casino to gamble in the past 12 months. Half of the participants had done so at least once at a casino in MA, so many of these would fall into this casual gambling bracket. These players can throw a few bucks on red or double-zero and the croupier lets them know when their number comes up.

Some of the other data Wood put together showed interesting trends. For example, younger players tend to know less about the games and take greater risks. Though this probably reflects the state of youth in almost any field.

“We can speculate that as players gamble over time they get more experienced, they learn more about the games and get more exposed to responsible gambling initiatives. And, of course, being young is more of a time, in general, for risk-taking,” Wood told regulators.

He suggested that "responsible gambling" initiatives target young people, focus on educating players, and move away from boring semi-parental language like "budget" towards trendier terms, like "bankroll."

Your move, squares.

Image source: Flickr