UMass report finds Plainridge casino has brought significant financial benefits, few socioeconomic problems 

  • The hotel lobby of the MGM Springfield casino File photo

Staff Writer
Published: 12/7/2018 11:03:11 PM

AMHERST — Massachusetts’ first casino is bringing significant financial benefits to its region and to the state, while having minimal socioeconomic impacts, according to a report presented to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission by researchers at the University of Massachusetts this week.

The report, presented Thursday in Boston, shows that the Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville has brought revenue, employment and spending, though no measurable increase in people seeking treatment for problem gambling, personal bankruptcy filings, divorce and separations or suicides.

“This is likely due to the fairly high population level of casino gambling that existed prior to the introduction of the PPC (Plainridge Park Casino) that is related to the close proximity of Rhode Island and Connecticut casinos that have been in operation since the early 1990s,” the researchers note.

The 142-page report, “Social and Economic Impacts of Expanded Gambling in Massachusetts: 2018 report” comes from the Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts group. Its research is believed to be the most in-depth investigation of the impacts of introducing casino gambling to a state ever undertaken.

“This comprehensive report represents the first of many over the coming years as researchers continue an important deep-dive analysis of all the economic and social impacts of casinos on host communities, their surrounding communities, and across the commonwealth,” said Gayle Cameron, the interim chairwoman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, in a statement.

Cameron added that the report shows that the economic benefits anticipated by the introduction of expanded gaming in Massachusetts have largely materialized at Plainridge.

“Of equal importance, the research suggests that concerns related to the potential for negative social impacts have not occurred,” Cameron said.

Dr. Rachel A. Volberg, a research associate professor in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at UMass and the principal investigator for SEIGMA, said the group continues to collect social and economic indicators as each casino becomes operational.

“This inaugural report is an important resource for stakeholders in Massachusetts and elsewhere to understand the impacts of expanded gambling and work to maximize the benefits and minimize and mitigate the negative impacts,” Volberg said.

She said the report reflects data that “we expected for the most part. The only surprise was the lack of impact in terms of problem gambling, but we were able to identify a likely reason for the lack of change.”

Plainridge Park Casino opened in 2015 before MGM Springfield commenced operations in August and prior to the forthcoming Encore Boston Harbor.

So far, the report notes Plainridge has created significant economic benefits, as most of the $176 to $186 million in annual revenue is likely new money returned to the state by residents who otherwise would have left Massachusetts to gamble, as well as out-of-state patrons. Most of this revenue remains in the state.

Of the $129.5 million in operational expenses, taxes, wages and supplies in the casino’s first year of operation, 87 percent was spent within Massachusetts. More than 500 people are employed at the casino, of which about 71 percent are in-state employees.

No significant crime uptick has occurred at the state level, the report observes, but Plainville has seen an increase in credit card fraud and reports of lost property, suspicious activity and traffic complaints “that can likely be attributed to the PPC. These increases, in turn, are largely attributable to an increased volume of visitors to the area.”

Plainridge is a slot parlor, which has 1,249 slot machines and electronic table games, several instant ticket and lottery ticket terminals and a 5/8-mile live harness racing track and simulcast betting. By comparison, MGM Springfield has 3,000 slot machines, 100 table games and a poker room.

Volberg said the group’s expects to release a report next summer that focuses on construction impacts of MGM Springfield’s casino, as well as real estate conditions and changes in Springfield.

The next summary report is planned for release in 2022, so that all casinos are open, though a series of interim reports will be coming out over the next year, as well, Volberg said.

Since 2013, the UMass-based group has worked to gain an understanding of how new gambling and entertainment centers affect safety, employment, housing, behavior and other factors.

During the initial project, SEIGMA was funded at $3.64 million, with the researchers interviewing and tracking more than 3,000 respondents, made up of people who might change their gambling habits with the presence of casinos in the state.




Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2019 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy