About the Office of Problem Gambling Services

Learn about the Office of Problem Gambling Services' (OPGS) values, programs and community partners.

The Office of Problem Gambling Services (OPGS) was established to lead the public health response to the expansion of gambling in the Commonwealth. Since 2016, OPGS has ensured a comprehensive and integrated public health approach to problem gambling by using data to inform initiatives, engage communities, and ensure cultural intelligence and humility. Critical to the work of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Office of Problem Gambling Services is leading with data and community voice, the promotion of health and racial equity with a vision of eradicating health disparities. The collective effort in leading a public health response centered on our values is unprecedented in the field of problem gambling.

Table of Contents

Our Values

The Office of Problem Gambling Services is guided by the public health principles of engagement, empowerment, and equity. The Office works by allocating significant resources to data/surveillance, prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery support services in order to mitigate the harmful effects of problem gambling and related issues through a variety of community-level strategies.

Since 2016, OPGS has implemented a social-ecological method to carry out a public health response to problem gambling. A social-ecological method is a comprehensive approach that is rooted in the principles of public health and incorporates the individual, family, and community to mitigate harms associated with gambling. In contrast to programs, policies, and practices focused only on the individual, this approach actively: (1) engages individuals at different levels of risk, (2) considers the social and environmental context in which individuals live and thrive, and (3) adheres to principles of cultural competence.

A Public Health Response

Problem gambling is governed by a complex set of interrelating factors, causes, and determinants ranging from biology and family history to social norms and existing statutes. Research indicates that gambling is interrelated with various health issues and disproportionately impacts individuals with mental health disorders, substance misuse disorders, and communities of color. Historically, community-level experiences of gambling and communities of color are often not the focus of problem gambling services and efforts. Preliminary research indicates that ethnic and racial minorities have higher rates of gambling problems than the adult general population.

A public health response encourages a shift from a narrow focus on just individual gamblers to a broader consideration of the social setting; in other words, the social, cultural, and economic factors that influence the spread and patterns of a disorder (Shaffer & Korn, 2002).

OPGS’ collective work has established the foundation for leading the public health response to problem gambling across the Commonwealth by critically analyzing data, working alongside communities, and promoting equity so that communities and individuals who experience the greatest inequities are at the center of its efforts.

Our Programs and Services

OPGS programs and services are led by evidence, data, and community voice to address gambling-related harms throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. OPGS contracts directly with community organizations to provide services to individuals and families throughout Massachusetts to prevent and mitigate gambling-related harms, especially for communities disproportionately impacted by gambling. Since 2016, OPGS has built capacity to fund and support over 20 vendors to carry out evidence-based programs and services at the community level. Programs are implemented across the continuum of care with a focus on racial equity and partnering with communities impacted by health inequities and structural racism.

Learn more: Leading a Public Health Response to Problem Gambling (PDF) (Word)

OPG values includes community engagement and assessment, programs and services, workforce training and supports, public awareness, and technical assistance and evaluation

Our Community Partners

OPGS has engaged over 2,000 community members along with over 40 community-based organizational partners to inform the development of priorities and ensure that cultural and community perspectives are embedded in our work. Community input has informed over 23 initiatives across the continuum of care: prevention, intervention, multiple pathways to recovery including treatment, and recovery support. These strategies seek to address problem gambling and also explore the relationships between problem gambling and other health concerns, leading to a strong public health response to those issues, individuals, and communities most affected by problem gambling. The unprecedented community engagement of individuals facing the greatest health and racial disparities, with a focus on social determinants of health is blazing a new trail in the field of problem gambling.

Our Strategic Plan

In 2022, the OPGS embarked on developing a new strategic plan to guide its work for the next five years.  OPGS’ Strategic Plan: Working Together to Mitigate Harms Associated with Problem Gambling (PDF) | (Word) aims to maximize positive impact on the community and strengthen capacity to continuously improve services and operations. OPGS engaged an array of internal and external stakeholders to draw on their collected insights, be responsive to their needs, and connect and align the work of the Office with the work and priorities of the community and government partners. The plan provides detailed strategies to address problem gambling and explores the relationships between problem gambling and other health concerns — allowing for the continued development of a strong public health response to harms associated with problem gambling.

The plan is implemented by the Department of Public Health. Implementation is overseen by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, assisted by members of other state agencies and community-based organizations.

The Public Health Trust Fund

The Expanded Gaming Act of 2011 (Chapter 194) along with the Massachusetts Sports Wagering Act of 2022 (Chapter 173) allocates significant resources to a Public Health Trust Fund to mitigate the harms associated with gambling through research, prevention, intervention, evaluation, multiple pathways to recovery including treatment, and recovery support.

The Public Health Trust Fund is overseen by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services and administered by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Office of Problem Gambling Services in partnership with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

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