Problem Gambling Is Not Boosted by New Casinos, Says Study

A study aimed to determine how new casinos impact problem gambling. The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The extensive research took 6 years and determined that new casinos do not necessarily impact rates of problem gambling.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst Reveals Results of a 6-Year Study

Results of a new study, commissioned by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) were released during a webinar on Wednesday this week. A research team from the University of Massachusetts Amherst led the groundbreaking Massachusetts Gambling Impact Cohort (MAGIC) study.

The extensive study spanned for more than 6 years and involved between 2,300 and 3,000 participants. Divided into “waves“, the researchers interviewed the same participants. The goal of the study was to better understand how gambling and problem gambling is being developed

The study was led by Dr. Rachel Volberg, a research professor at UMass Amherst, Dr. Robert Williams, a professor from the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, and Martha Zorn, UMass Amherst data manager. Furthermore, Dr. Ed Stanek, professor emeritus at UMass Amherst, and Valerie Evans, UMass Amherst Biostatistician and MAGIC project manager, were also a part of the research team.

New Venues Did Not Impact Rates of Problem Gambling

During the extensive study, researchers found that the introduction of new casinos does not necessarily impact the rates of problem gambling. Although, gambling addiction remains a problem, according to the study, a stable non-gambler category was observed.

Additionally, the researchers found that by introducing gambling venues, the state managed to “repatriate” money, which residents of Massachusetts usually spent on gambling out of state. Co-lead investigator Dr. Williams deemed that occurrence as “good news”. Furthermore, the researchers found that the introduction of casinos did not impact negatively lottery participation.

There has been no other longitudinal study of gambling behavior of this scale in the United States.

Cathy Judd-Stein, MGC chair

During the webinar, Cathy Judd-Stein, MGC chair, said that this is the first study on gambling behavior at such scale in the United States. Furthermore, she added that the study helps understanding gambling behavior in Massachusetts but also contributes to similar studies worldwide. Last but not least, Judd-Stein deemed the results of the study as compelling and said that they would be vital for the future guidance of policymakers and state regulators.

A Significant Number of the Participants Identified Themselves as Recreational Gamblers

The people who participated in the study were divided into four different categories. The categories featured non-gamblers, recreational gamblers, at-risk gamblers, and problem gamblers. From the 3,000 participants, approximately 70% identified themselves as recreational gamblers.

On the other hand, respondents who identified as non-gamblers were 14%. Another 12.5% of the participants identified as at-risk gamblers, while problem gamblers were approximately 3.5%. According to the study, 20% of the at-risk gamblers became problem gamblers. However, the researchers found that there is a “much more common route” which brought at-risk gamblers back to recreational gambling.

Focusing on problem gamblers, when asked what caused their problem, 30.2% responded with a desire to win. Some 21.4% of the problem gamblers said that the issue was caused by boredom/enjoyment/excitement. On the other hand, 9.3% of the individuals who self-determined as problem gamblers denied having a problem.

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