On Christmas Eve morning, when virtually no media, citizens or other state legislators were paying attention to legislative business, the Massachusetts Senate approved an amendment during informal session that would allow ATMs inside casinos. This stunning action occurred even though the intent of informal session is to move non-controversial legislation.
Casino ATMs are one of the most predatory and financially damaging business practices used by casinos and they were expressly prohibited when the casino law was signed by Governor Deval Patrick. The ban on ATMs was a core part of the political narrative that Patrick and other casino sponsors sold the public: “We’re going to do casinos right, better than everyone else.”
Why are casino ATMs an issue that you should care about and act on? A leading indicator of someone who is being harmed and financially damaged by casinos is if he or she chases their losses. ATMs are the primary vehicle used by casinos to lure citizens to chase. Their business model hinges on it. Over the last decade there are 11 different independent studies – studies not funded by gambling interests – that show 40%-60% of slot machine profits are taken from citizens who can’t stop chasing their losses.
This is how it works: A citizen goes into the casino and loses all their cash or the “free play” voucher mailed to them by the casino (most often, they lose it all on slot machines which predominate inside casinos.) This is a pivotal moment for the casino…can they get that citizen to chase his or her losses? Slot machine design and free alcohol are two of the critical factors that lure citizens to chase. If the casino is successful, then the next step is the citizen hits the casino ATM to withdraw more money. Most casino ATMs are owned by Global Cash Access (GCA) which then turns around and sells the name, credit info and other information of that citizen back to the casino. Then the casino focuses its most intense marketing efforts against that citizen because they know that if they can get him or her to return to the casino and keep gambling, it is almost inevitable that citizen will keep losing, chasing their losses over and over again. From a casino marketing standpoint, it is the equivalent of painting the citizen in neon orange fluorescent paint with a massive bulls eye on their back.
Removing the state’s ban on ATMs inside casinos does not qualify as “non-controversial” and no such legislation should be moved during informal legislative session. It is a major consumer protection issue that merits bright sunshine.
I ask everyone to please contact your state representative and state senator today or first thing Monday morning and call on them to remove the amendment language approving casino ATMs in House Bill 4110. You can find the contact info for your rep and for your senator here. You can view the full legislative history for House Bill 4110 here.
To learn more about Global Cash Access and their predatory and harmful business practices, I invite you to watch one of their own marketing videos: