UMass team lands millions for gambling research

  • A view inside the casino at MGM Springfield. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 2/11/2020 1:10:17 PM

AMHERST — A University of Massachusetts Amherst research team has been awarded a multimillion-dollar contract to continue investigating the impact of gambling in Massachusetts as casinos such as MGM Springfield take hold.

The contract, granted by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, will provide the team with about $1 million a year for three years, given the possibility of two annual renewals, to contribute to a 12-year investigation.

Lead investigator Rachel Volberg, a research professor and epidemiologist in the UMass School of Public Health & Health Sciences, said the study will aim to identify both the positive and negative influences that gambling has on the state as new forms of gambling are introduced.

“In the case of negative impacts, we’re hoping that this information will be useful to folks who are concerned about problem gambling and people who are affected by problem gambling in the community,” Volberg said.

The team has already completed phases of the project investigating “baseline conditions before there were any casinos operating in Massachusetts,” as well as the construction of MGM Springfield, which opened in 2018, and Encore Boston Harbor in Everett. The initial phase was awarded $3.64 million in funding.

“This new phase of the study is going to be looking more closely at the economic and social impact of the casinos as they operate in Massachusetts,” Volberg said.

As part of the data collection process, the researchers will survey people on the types of gambling they’ve done in the past year, how much they have spent on gambling, how often they have gambled and other difficulties that they might have had outside of gambling, including difficulties with other substances or mental health conditions.

The main expenses required to conduct the research are UMass salaries and fringe, travel, supplies and subcontracts, according to Volberg. Six UMass faculty and staff members and one graduate research assistant are participating in the project.

In a previous phase that analyzed data from the Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, UMass publicized that researchers had found that problem gambling rates did not increase — though this is possibly due to Plainville’s proximity to Rhode Island and Connecticut casinos — while increasing job opportunities and providing other economic benefits. However, the results also indicated that individual spending was on the rise at casinos.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at


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