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Two Years After MGM Springfield Opened, Economic Benefits Noted But No Increase in Problem Gambling Detected

UMass Amherst SEIGMA researchers present social and economic impact reports at 2020 Public Research Day Webinar

The opening of MGM Springfield – the first resort-style casino in the state – stimulated the local and statewide economy and enhanced job and educational opportunities for a diverse workforce while not resulting in any increase in the rate of problem gambling or at-risk gamblers.

Those are some of the key findings from the latest round of Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts (SEIGMA) study reports, which feature findings from surveys of MGM Springfield employees, casino patrons and community residents.

Researchers with SEIGMA, based at UMass Amherst, presented data about the casino’s social and economic impacts today, Oct. 14, at the 2020 Public Research Day Webinar, titled “Springfield’s Two Years as a Casino Host: Looking Back and Looking Forward.” The reports are part of the most in-depth and comprehensive investigation ever undertaken into the impact of introducing casino gambling in a community.

In the first year of operation, MGM Springfield directly created 2,538 jobs paying $85.2 million, said Thomas Peake, senior research analyst at the UMass Donahue Institute, the SEIGMA partner responsible for economic and fiscal impact research. Statewide, spending by the casino on wages and to vendors supported a total of 6,287 net jobs and $356.9 million in personal income.

“MGM did do a good job of hiring locally and they hired quite a diverse workforce with a significant number of people who had been unemployed or underemployed previously,” said Rachel Volberg, principal investigator of the SEIGMA study and research professor in the UMass Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences.

Peake noted that most casino patrons did not shift their spending toward the casino and away from other businesses in Massachusetts. The research shows that MGM Springfield visitors accounted for $66.3 million in new, off-site spending. “One of the big findings we have is that 61.7% of patron spending was new to the state and would not have occurred had it not been for the casino,” Peake told the 90 attendees, the largest audience to date of any SEIGMA Public Research Day.

Public health researchers would typically expect an initial increase in problem gambling after the introduction of a casino, but that was not the case in Springfield, nor did problem gambling increase after the Plainridge Park Casino opened in Plainville in 2015.

“It appears to be an already exposed population as far as casino gambling is concerned,” Volberg explained. “The Massachusetts population is far from naïve when it comes to casino gambling. States surrounding Massachusetts, including Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York, have had casino gambling for decades prior to the introduction of casino gambling in Massachusetts. Lengthy exposure means harmful effects may have abated over time, even in a population that has experienced recent local expansion.”

Other highlights from the reports, which will be available soon on the SEIGMA website, include:

  • MGM Springfield’s payments to government entities totaled $110.1 million.
  • About 59% of casino patrons came from Massachusetts (most of them from the Springfield area), and 41% from mostly nearby states. Less than 1% of patrons were international.
  • The percentage of the patrons with the lowest household incomes (less than $30,000 per year) spent proportionally more on gambling (30%) compared to their prevalence in the general adult population of Massachusetts. “An important social issue concerns whether people with lower incomes contribute disproportionately more to gambling revenues than people with higher incomes,” the patron survey report notes.
  • Out-of-state patrons accounted for 42.5% of the $259 million in gambling revenue at MGM Springfield from October 2018-September 2019, while also contributing 37.5% of the $83 million in non-gambling revenue at the casino-resort.

(This article was first published by UMass New & Media Relations)

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