Mass. Casino Operators Push Back On Proposed Gambling Limits

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To reduce problem gambling once casinos and slot parlors open in the state, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is considering a program that would allow gamblers to voluntarily set limits for how much and how long they can bet.

Designed to target those at risk of becoming compulsive gamblers, the program would be the first of its kind in the U.S. But state casino operators appear skeptical.

"There could be potentially many unintended consequences from what we believe to be good policy for the general public," said Robert DeSalvio, president of Wynn Massachusetts, which is building a casino in Everett.

He said the company isn't necessarily opposed to the program, but he does worry that proposed incentives for people who stay under their limits could encourage problem gambling. "We do not want anyone who has a problem with gambling in any way, shape, or form to be on that casino floor."

DeSalvio also raised concerns that people may set a limit far above what they actually mean to spend, or may play more aggressively as they get closer to their time limit.

"Those are hypotheses," Commissioner James McHugh responded. "There's no data to support that. There's no data to say it isn't going to happen."

Penn National Gaming, which will be the first gambling facility to open in the state with its slot parlor in Plainville, may serve as the guinea pig in this case.

Chief Operating Officer Jay Snowden said the company is open to conducting a trial run for the self-imposed gambling limits.

"I'm not here to tell you whatever we implement will work, I'm not here to tell you it won't work," Snowden said. "We don't know, quite frankly. There is hypothesis, but we're not sure yet."

This segment aired on November 20, 2014.

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Jack Lepiarz Reporter and Anchor
Jack Lepiarz was a reporter and anchor at WBUR.



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