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Mass. Agencies To Address Problem Gambling

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Three-quarters the annual spending of a public health fund aimed at gambling addiction will go to initiatives backed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health under an agreement signed Thursday by state gambling regulators.

The agreement, which state officials called unique, requires the state Gaming Commission and the state's Executive Office of Health and Human Services to work jointly to ensure the fund created by the state's 2011 casino law is properly used.

Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz said the partnership will ultimately benefit state residents as it will support research into intervention, treatment and prevention of the "unintended consequences" of casino gambling.

The agreement specifically creates an oversight committee including representatives and designees from both agencies to authorize spending and outline priorities for the Public Health Trust Fund, which will draw from annual casino and slot parlor revenues and a portion of state gambling license fees.

The agreement also calls for the gambling commission to finance a new director of problem gambling services within the public health department, at least until there is enough in the trust fund to pay for the position.

The fund is meant to support programs addressing gambling addiction and substance abuse, educational campaigns to "mitigate the potential addictive nature of gambling," and studies about the social and economic impacts of introducing Las Vegas-style gambling to the Bay State.

The state's health and human services secretary is the fund's designated trustee, with the gaming commission providing "advice and consent."

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This article was originally published on July 24, 2014.