The thousands of daily visitors entering the Encore Boston Harbor has led to more crime for Everett, Massachusetts since the gaming venue opened there in June, according to recent data. Over 160 people reportedly were arrested or given a summons in just the last five months.
Many crimes took place between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., and crime volume tended to increase after 11 p.m., shows a recent review of incidents responded to by the Massachusetts State Police Gaming Enforcement Unit and the Everett Police, WCVB TV News reported.
Disorderly conduct, assault and battery, larceny, and cheating are among the most common charges at Encore. Arguments, fights, and motor vehicle accidents are among the most frequent types of incidents which need a police response, the TV station said.
Evidence of the weekend incidents can be found at Malden District Court on Monday mornings when those charged appear before a local judge, WCVB said. On one August Sunday night into Monday morning, Encore Boston Harbor was the scene of multiple fights and rowdiness around bar-closing time, which led to several arrests.
Also, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) continually reviews data on crimes at the casino and two other state venues. MGC officials do not see the numbers as unusual given the size of the venue and number of patrons.
Preliminary findings from MGC’s ongoing public safety impact study indicate that activity at Massachusetts casinos is comparable to other non-gambling facilities of similar size and number of visitors,” an MGC statement released Saturday to Casino.org says.
“The MGC, in conjunction with state and local police as well as the gaming licensees, have a shared goal of ensuring a safe and secure environment in and around Massachusetts casinos,” the statement adds. “Like Plainridge Park Casino and MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbor has become a popular entertainment destination, hosting thousands of visitors each day.”
The MGC is encouraging police and security officers to patrol the property and quickly respond to any incidents. “We continue to facilitate strong collaboration among law enforcement officials, regulatory agents, and casino security personnel to successfully implement preventive safety measures and, when necessary, provide a swift and effective response,” the MGC statement said.
Encore Boston Harbor is a $2.6 billion property that includes a total of 3 million square feet and sits on 33 acres. Just the gaming floor alone is 210,000 square feet.
In comparison, MGM Springfield is a $960 million property on 14.5 acres. The venue includes a 251-room hotel and a 125,000 square-foot gaming floor. It attracts approximately 15,000 visitors a day.
Additionally, Plainridge Park Casino is a $250 million slots-only property in Plainville. It has 44,000 square feet of gaming space and 1,250 electronic devices.
Police Involved in Casino Patrols
The opening of the casinos led to more money for police services. The MGC gave $1.8 million to the Massachusetts State Police to hire, train, and pay state troopers affiliated with the Gaming Enforcement Unit.
Additional police services come from Everett police. The local department assigned six officers to the state’s Gaming Enforcement Unit. Everett police also patrol the area surrounding the casino.
Also, Plainville recently opened a $34 million police station that was largely funded by gaming revenue shared by Plainridge Park Casino. In addition, Springfield allocated funds to increase police patrols downtown near the casino with a new Metro Unit, including foot and bicycle patrols and new Metro substations.
To monitor crime levels at the casinos, the MGC uses a crime data analyst who was identified in news reports as Christopher Bruce. The numbers are regularly reviewed and there are data-driven policing strategies.
Each of the casinos also set up protocols and internal controls so venues and visitors have safer environments. The MGC reviews the protocols and procedures.
Casinos are staffed around the clock with state and local police and private security personnel. Casinos also have technology and surveillance to monitor the properties.
Late-Night Alcohol Service Needs Review
When asked for comment about the new data, the Rev. Richard McGowan, a Boston College finance professor who closely studies New England gambling trends, told Casino.org that as “Encore tries to increase the number of people who play the slot machines, you will increase the number of people who are coming, and obviously you increase the risk of violence.”
Encore is atypical in that revenue generated from table games is greater than revenue from slot machines, McGowan said. There are some steps Encore can take to reduce risk of criminal activity.
Encore’s policy of serving alcoholic beverages past the usual time is not helping this situation,” McGowan said. “Probably an earlier cut-off time would help.” Currently, Encore serves alcohol until 4 a.m. to gamblers, WCVB reported.
Also, Encore “needs to adjust its security details as it tries to increase the number of patrons,” McGowan added. “That only stands to reason.”
A spokeswoman for Encore released a statement to Casino.org on Sunday that said in part, “The safety and security of our guests are taken very seriously at Encore Boston Harbor.
“We have a zero tolerance policy regarding any violation of law or inappropriate behavior and work side-by-side with law enforcement to ensure any individuals involved in such behavior are immediately removed from the resort and handled appropriately by Everett or State Police,” the statement adds.