Massachusetts Commission Kicking Off Study Of iGaming And Its Public Health Impacts

Erik Gibbs

microscope study

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) has initiated a forward-looking endeavor to explore the burgeoning domain of internet gaming and its intersection with artificial intelligence within the gaming industry. This initiative, highlighted by the CommonWealth Beacon, is manifested through two distinct Requests for Proposals (RFPs), each aimed at delving into separate facets of the constantly evolving sector.

The first RFP, which has a bid opening date of June 21, is an investigative study into the ramifications of iGaming on public health. This inquiry is particularly focused on discerning the comparative behavioral patterns of iGaming participants against those engaged in other forms of gaming. It will also explore the comorbidity with problem gambling, and the specific impacts on those under the age of 25 within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The study is poised to provide a preemptive analysis of the iGaming landscape. Although Massachusetts isn’t among them, seven states now offer online casino gaming.

Rhode Island became the most recent addition when it introduced iCasino in June of last year. Also included in the iGaming group are New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Connecticut.

The second RFP, with a bid opening date of June 12, casts a wider net, examining the current and prospective applications of AI in the online gaming industry. This encompasses a spectrum of uses, from marketing strategies and player acquisition to the enhancement of responsible gambling practices and the overall health of players.

iGaming legalization on the radar?

The insights garnered from these studies will be used to inform the commission’s regulatory approach. They could also contribute to the broader discourse on the integration of technology in gaming. In addition, the outcomes could potentially influence policy decisions, shape responsible gambling practices, and guide the ethical deployment of AI in the industry.

With a budget of $75,000 allocated for each study, the MGC isn’t prepared to spend a lot of money on the research. However, the projects could lead to additional studies that may provide more insight.

The MGC highlights in its RFPs that the focus of the research is primarily online casino gambling. It doesn’t intend the studies to delve into online sports betting, which has a much larger U.S. footprint. Massachusetts legalized sports betting in 2022. It officially launched in January 2023.

The legislative journey of online gambling, however, has been a cautious one. The Expanded Gaming Act of 2011, signed by then-Gov. Deval Patrick, authorized a limited number of land-based casinos but did not extend this legality to the online realm. This cautious approach has continued, with no clear indication that online casino gaming will enter the legislative discussion in the near future.

The state’s budget proposals for fiscal 2025 have also highlighted the financial implications of gambling. Proposals from the Governor’s Office and the state House of Representatives suggest tapping into gaming revenue accounts to support the state budget, reflecting the significant economic impact of gambling operations within the state.

Moreover, Massachusetts has demonstrated a commitment to addressing the potential public health impacts of gambling. A portion of gambling revenues is earmarked for research and initiatives aimed at mitigating gambling-related harms. This includes funding for the MGC.

AI adopts leading role in iGaming ops

AI is already playing a transformative role in online casino, where it is employed to tailor the gaming experience to individual preferences. Advanced algorithms analyze player data to offer personalized game recommendations, bonuses, and promotions, thereby theoretically enhancing player engagement and satisfaction. Moreover, AI-driven customer support, through chatbots, provides round-the-clock assistance.

In the sports betting ecosystem, AI’s predictive capabilities are leveraged to offer bettors more accurate forecasts of sports events. By processing vast datasets that include player performance, weather conditions, and historical trends, AI algorithms can significantly improve the oddsmaking process and influence betting strategies and outcomes.

Security is another critical area where AI is making significant inroads. Online casinos are utilizing AI to bolster their security measures, employing sophisticated systems to monitor gaming patterns and detect suspicious activities such as fraud or cheating. AI-powered facial recognition technology is also being used at land-based casinos to identify and prevent access to banned or self-excluded individuals.

Casinos are also harnessing AI to optimize various aspects of their operations, such as using it to analyze peak gambling times and customer demographics, as well as to make informed decisions about game placements and marketing initiatives.