SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- It's been 15 months since MGM Springfield opened its doors in western Mass.
The resort and casino have welcomed millions of people giving them a Las Vegas entertainment experience.
Just as popular as the slot machines, table games, and restaurants, the casino's onsite GameSense program.
Western Mass News was digging deeper into how the program has benefited casino visitors.
Flashing lights, colorful buttons, and ringing bells. It's an exciting sight to anyone. MGM Springfield has been entertaining visitors for more than a year now, bringing in large numbers and dishing out big prizes, but Director of Government Affairs Jose Delgado explained why visiting the resort and casino isn't always fun and games.
"For us, we believe that responsible gaming is a huge part of the gaming experience. So we want to ensure that when guests come to MGM Springfield they come, have a great time and do so responsibly," Delgado said.
To make sure guests know how to participate in games, do so responsibly, and recognize when they have a problem, MGM Springfield offers GameSense.
"For anything we do, GameSense is all about teaching folks about the gaming, the different games we have, but also about budgeting. For most of us, we do a budget for everything we do in life, whether we go shopping, buying clothes and so we feel that the more information we have for our guests will better their experience here," Delgado explained.
According to the Mass. Gaming Commission, from August 2018 to June 2019, MGM Springfield's GameSense advisers engaged in more than 10,000 conversations with more than 17,000 people.
They included over 246 demonstration interactions involving 772 guests, 8,529 exchange interactions involving 14,073 guests, 737 exchange interactions with nearly 2,000 MGM employees, 1,185 interactions about casino-related issues with more than 1,500 guests, and 174 enrollments in the voluntary self-exclusion program.
Director of Research and Responsible Gaming, Mark Vander Linden from the Mass. Gaming Commission, explained the purpose behind the new program.
"That is a program for persons who are truly struggling with their gambling, recognize that they've lost control and want some help. One of the things they can do is enroll in the voluntary self-exclusion program, which would prohibit them from entering the gaming floor of any casino in Massachusetts," Vander Linden explained.
Vander Linden continues to explain the percentages of how people are going about their gambling.
"We're finding that a significant number, significant percentage are changing how they think about their gambling. Also, a significant percentage are not only changing how they think about it, but they're also actually changing their actual gambling behavior. That's exactly what we want. People to stand back and think about what they're doing and whether this is something they want to do," Vander Linden noted.
Amy Gabrila, the senior GameSense adviser at MGM Springfield, told Western Mass News the importance of this program.
"As somebody who is a 23 year veteran from the operator side of the gaming industry, to step over into this, I think this is amazing," Gabrila said.
She said it's important they are a friendly, inviting face for everyone who comes to the casino.
"I think having a situation where we can build relationships with players in their environment, where they feel comfortable, they're in their comfort zone, rather than having them come to seek us out. One of the things I've heard from players is having you here makes the effortless for me. I don't have to seek out an outside resource," Gabrila explained.
From first time gamblers to experienced players, GameSense wants guests to understand if they're making a good bet and playing responsibly.
Every MGM casino in the country has GameSense information available to customers, but MGM Springfield is the only one with a physical GameSense information center with GameSense advisers on property.
"Our GameSense advisers are here 16 hours a day, seven days a week. They get to know a lot of the regular customers here and through that relationship, trust builds. If a person is struggling with their gambling and that relationship does exist, our GameSense advisers are specifically trained to have those types of conversations and to help them get help or give them tips on how to reduce the level of harm perhaps they're feeling. This is a form of entertainment and a lot of people want to do this as that form of entertainment. Let's make sure it stays entertainment and part of that is know exactly what they're doing," Vander Linden said.