For some time now, opponents of gambling in the state of Massachusetts have tried to say that casino gaming is connected to an increase in criminal activity. A new public safety report recently made public by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) suggests otherwise. The report took into consideration operations at Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield.
The Report Findings
According to MGC crime analysis consultant Christopher Bruce, during the first 18 months that MGM Springfield was operational, and the first eight of the Encore, the casinos were not a cause for elevated criminal behavior. Back when commercial gambling was approved in 2011, opponents raised the argument that casinos would bring crime to the area.
Bruce stated that in surrounding areas, crime has increased and decreased based on the instance. There are few patterns and trends that show any direct ties to the Encore Boston Harbor. For MGM Springfield, the surrounding communities have seen an increase and decrease in crime, though there are no consistent trends that connect the casino as the source of activity.
In 2011, when the industry was expanded legally, a requirement was added that the Gaming Commission must conduct reviews of the casinos regularly to look over the economic and social impacts of the operations. One matter that must be given particular focus is crime and its possible connection to gambling.
The Past Does Not Ring True for the Present
Decades ago, casino gambling was connected to criminal organizations like the mob or mafia. In the early years, that was generally true. However, for many years, the gambling industries around the United States have operated legally and have no connection to any criminal activity.
Movies such as Casino starring Robert De Niro and Sharon Stone play into the argument that casinos lead to crime. There is a sort of preconceived notion as to how casinos operate or how criminals use the industry that opponents cling to in order to try and stop any growth or expansion in states like Massachusetts.
However, the most recent report shows that is not the case. Commercial gambling is actually one of the strictest industries that are regulated in the United States. Proponents point out all the benefits, such as new jobs for the area, tax revenues, and improvement to the local economy.
There is a small percentage of players who will develop a gambling addiction, and sometimes those individuals can be connected to crime. However, for the most part, that is not the case.
While the Massachusetts casinos are not responsible for an increase in criminal activity, there have been instances where arrests have been made. Just this year, a man was arrested at the Encore Boston Harbor for trying to sell meth. When the man was arrested, it was discovered that he had two semi-automatic pistols on his person, and they were loaded.
The report shows the casinos in a positive light, but local law officials might say otherwise. Last year, the city of West Springfield applied for more money decided to cover additional support for an increase in first responder calls.
It will be interesting to see if officials will comment on this recent report and perhaps provide information that might sway the opinion in a different way.