In 2016, Massachusetts ranked 25th on a list of states most affected by problem gambling.
The state’s recent legalization of sports betting may lead to even more gambling issues, including gambling addiction. Luckily, Massachusetts offers a variety of gambling addiction treatment options.
Sports Betting & Gambling Addiction In Massachusetts
People gamble in a number of ways. For example, they might play slot machines, play the lottery, or bet on the outcome of a sporting event (also called “sports betting” or “sports wagering.”)
Some Massachusetts residents gamble with no issues. However, others become problem gamblers. Problem gambling occurs when gambling disrupts your life in some way. For example, you might:
- struggle to think about anything besides gambling
- feel the urge to gamble increasingly larger amounts of money to get the same rush
- avoid family members and friends so you can spend more time gambling
- gamble to get back money you lost while gambling (also called “chasing your losses”)
- frequently need to borrow money to make up for gambling losses
- lose relationships, jobs, or educational opportunities due to your gambling behaviors
Problem gambling often turns into gambling addiction. Gambling addiction (also called gambling disorder) is an impulse-control disorder that makes you feel unable to stop gambling. It occurs because, much like drugs, gambling can overstimulate your brain’s reward system.
Like other addictions, gambling addiction requires professional help.
The Risk Of Gambling Addiction In Massachusetts
According to the Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health, about 8.4% of Massachusetts residents are at risk of developing a gambling problem.
Some people are concerned that this number will grow due to the legalization of sports betting.
In 2023, Massachusetts lawmakers legalized both in-person and mobile sports betting for all residents aged 21 and older. In-person betting means betting at a sportsbook (an establishment that accepts bets on sporting events). Mobile betting means betting through a mobile app.
Indeed, legal sports betting could lead to higher rates of gambling addiction among Massachusetts residents.
Preventing Problem Gambling
To reduce the risk of addiction, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission created GameSense. This organization teaches responsible gambling techniques. It also helps residents identify problem gambling and connects them with local resources.
In addition, Massachusetts state regulators have required all in-person and mobile sportsbook operators to develop strategies to prevent problem gambling.
While these efforts might help, gambling still poses a risk of addiction. If you or someone you love becomes unable to stop gambling, seek help as soon as possible.
How To Get Help
For immediate support, you can contact the MA Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-327-5050. This free, confidential helpline is run by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Office of Problem Gambling Services.
When you call, a trained specialist will answer any questions you have about problem gambling. They can also help you find treatment for yourself or your loved one.
Most gambling addiction treatment plans include the following strategies:
Voluntary Self-Exclusion (VSE)
You can help yourself stop gambling by enrolling in the Voluntary Self-Exclusion (VSE) Program.
That means you will voluntarily ban yourself from Massachusetts sports betting, casino gambling, or both (depending on your needs). You can choose to be banned either temporarily or permanently.
In a self-help group, you can discuss your experiences and coping skills with other people in recovery from problem gambling or gambling addiction. The most popular self-help groups in Massachusetts include Gamblers Anonymous and Bettors Anonymous.
These groups hold regular in-person meetings across the state.
Many people also use GamTalk, an online forum that connects you with other recovering gamblers around the world.
In addition, if you don’t have a gambling problem but your loved one does, you can find help at the support group Gam-Anon.
Outpatient Treatment Programs
In an outpatient treatment program, you will learn to control your gambling urges through therapy. The most common types of therapy for gambling addiction are cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational enhancement therapy.
In cognitive behavioral therapy, a therapist will help you change unhelpful beliefs and behaviors that contribute to your gambling problem. You will also learn important coping skills, such as journaling, meditating, and spending time with supportive loved ones.
Additionally, your therapist can help you manage any underlying mental health concerns that might contribute to your compulsive gambling, such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder.
In motivational enhancement therapy, your therapist will help you become more motivated to stop gambling. Not everyone needs this type of therapy. However, it can be highly beneficial for people who seem resistant to change.
To learn more about problem gambling treatment, please reach out to Northeast Addictions Treatment Center. Our board-certified healthcare providers offer personalized, evidence-based care to help you or your loved one thrive.
Boston Globe Media Partners — Massachusetts Sports Betting: Comprehensive guide and updates
Commonwealth of Massachusetts — Massachusetts law about gambling and casinos
Massachusetts Gaming Commission — Problem Gambling
National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Compulsive Gambling