First data comes in from MA's PlayMyWay program at Plainridge
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Responsible Gaming Pilot Program Goes Under The Microscope After Year One In Massachusetts

PlayMyWay Microscope
A group of researchers submitted the first comprehensive report on the PlayMyWay system to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, during a Nov. 21 public meeting.

PlayMyWay is one of two responsible gaming pilot programs all Massachusetts casinos are required to implement.

The other is GameSense, an outreach program designed to “provide judgment-free gambling education to help patrons make informed, responsible decisions about when to gamble, when to stop, and how much to spend.”

PlayMyWay is what is known as a precommitment program.

After selecting daily, weekly, or monthly budget amounts, players receive automatic notifications when they reach 50 percent, 75 percent and 100 percent of their allotted budgets.

Upon reaching a budget limit, the machine will ask players to make an affirmative decision if they want to keep playing. If the player chooses to continue, notifications resume at 125 percent, 150 percent and so on.

The PlayMyWay research

The PlayMyWay report was commissioned by the MGC and carried out by five researchers from Cambridge Health Alliance’s Division on Addiction.

MGC Chairman Steve Crosby said of the PlayMyWay report:

“Evaluation is a key component of any responsible gambling program to ensure that objectives are initially met and, most importantly, remain effective. I would like to commend Plainridge Park Casino for their extraordinary commitment to the successful implementation of this pilot program and their ongoing cooperation on this evaluation.”

MGC Director of Research and Responsible Gaming Mark Vander Linden added:

“As part of our overall responsible gaming strategy, we want casino patrons to have access to real-time information that supports safe levels of play. The PlayMyWay program does not exist anywhere else in the country, and we are encouraged by the preliminary study on its impact. The Commission can now make data-driven decisions about how to improve its long-term effectiveness and usability.”

Key findings

Over the course of an eight-month period, from June 8, 2016, through Jan. 31, 2017, the researchers looked at over 100,000 Marquee Rewards members at Plainridge Park Casino.

Number of enrollees

Of the 100,000-plus Marquee Rewards members, 8,856 (just under nine percent) enrolled in the PlayMyWay program.

The report further breaks PlayMyWay enrollees into three groups:

  • Two percent stable (i.e., enrolled in PMW and remained enrolled throughout the study)
  • Three percent erratic (i.e., enrolled, un-enrolled, and reenrolled at least once and were enrolled at the end of the study)
  • Five percent dropouts (i.e., enrolled, but at the end of the study were un-enrolled)

Enrollees are younger

According to the report, PlayMyWay enrollees skew younger: 53.8 years old compared to the average age of a Marquee Rewards member of 58.7 years old.

Enrollees wager less money

Additionally, the data shows PlayMyWay enrollees visit the property as often but wager less money than other Plainridge customers.

The median non-user wagered $882.80 over the research period and lost $127.60 on average. The median PlayMyWay user wagered $574.20 and lost $89.40 during the same period.

Top-line budget setting numbers

The core of the PlayMyWay program is setting a wagering budget, and the report produced some interesting data on that front.

The researchers found that well over half of PlayMyWay enrollees — 57.1 percent — set a daily budget.

At the time of enrollment:

  • Daily median budget was $75.
  • Weekly median budget was $200.
  • Monthly median budget was $300.

Forty-two percent of PlayMyWay enrollees never approached their pre-set budget limits, although the researchers said they observed “daily budgets that were greater than what people were likely to spend.”

That begs the question, do PlayMyWay users set their budgets higher on purpose?

What happens when players near, meet or exceed their budgets?

One of the more interesting data points was what happened when patrons played through their budgets.

The report indicates 2,781 PlayMyWay enrollees (37 percent of all enrollees) exceeded their budget.

As seen in the chart below taken from the report, when a user decides to play through his or her budget, it generally didn’t end well.

About 46 percent will keep playing after an additional ten notifications, and a whopping 10.9 percent will continue to play past 100 notifications.

Furthermore, 7.6 percent of PlayMyWay users changed their daily, weekly or monthly budgets at some point. These budget changes were mostly significant upward revisions.

According to the data, when budgets were changed there was:

  • a 366.6 percent increase in the daily budget to $350;
  • a 350 percent jump in weekly budgets to $900;
  • the monthly budget increased by 233.3 percent to $1,000.

Budget changes are also more likely when players approach or meet their preset budget.

According to the report:

  • Five percent of users who approached their budgets revised their budgets;
  • Four percent of users who reached their budgets made revisions;
  • Three percent of users who exceeded budgets made changes.

Unenrollment linked to gaming habits

According to the research data, roughly 50 percent of the people who un-enroll from PlayMyWay do so by the end of the first day. Five percent opt out just minutes after enrolling.

Setting aside the people who un-enrolled at some point during the first day, there seems to be a correlation between un-enrollment and nearing, meeting or exceeding the patron’s selected budget.

  • The un-enrollment rate for players who never approached their budget was only 3.7 percent.
  • 9.1 percent of players who approached their budget unenrolled at some point after their first day.
  • 12.4 percent of players who reached their budget un-enrolled at some point after their first day
  • Players who exceeded their budget had an un-enrollment rate of 15.2 percent.

Unanswered questions

The researchers repeatedly pointed out the need for further study and made clear the data and findings were not looking into causation.

Here are a few of the things they’d like to study further:

  • Examine differences between gambling behavior before and after enrollment;
  • Look at differences between gambling behavior before and after receiving notifications;
  • Examine whether any gambling patterns or machine preferences are associated with PlayMyWay adoption.
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Steve Ruddock
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Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.