Massachusetts Safety Report Finds Little Linkage Between Casinos and Elevated Crime

Posted on: March 31, 2021, 09:35h. 

Last updated on: March 31, 2021, 12:30h.

A new public safety report submitted to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) finds little correlation between the state’s two integrated resort casinos and increased crime. 

Massachusetts casinos crime Encore Boston MGM Springfield
Police tape marks off an area outside Encore Boston Harbor where a dead body was found in December of 2020. A new report finds that casinos in Massachusetts have not resulted in a surge in crime. (Image: The Boston Globe)

Christopher Bruce, a crime analysis consultant to the MGC, says during MGM Springfield’s first 18 months of operation and Encore Boston Harbor’s initial eight months, the casinos have not spurred elevated instances of criminality. Critics to the state legalizing commercial gambling back in 2011 argued that casinos would bring more crime to the areas where the venues would operate. 

In the surrounding areas, various crimes increased and decreased.” Bruce said of Encore Boston Harbor. The $2.6 billion casino complex is not actually in Boston, but across the Mystic River in Everett. “Few patterns and trends so far have shown any direct casino ties.”

As for MGM Springfield, Bruce said that while surrounding communities also saw both increases and decreases in crime, there were “very few consistent trends to which MGM Springfield serves as a clear source.”

Under Massachusetts’ 2011 Expanded Gaming Act, the MGC must regularly conduct reviews to understand what social and economic impacts gambling is having on the Commonwealth. One specific matter is the relationship between gambling and levels of crime. 

Linke Between Casinos and Crime

The idea that casinos lead to more crime is one of the most common talking points among critics of gambling.

The association might have originated by way of mobsters being responsible for building Las Vegas and running the gaming industry in its earliest years. But those times are long gone, and commercial gambling is now one of the most strictly regulated industries in the nation.

Proponents of gambling say casinos bring thousands of new jobs, generate new tax revenue, and overall improve a region’s economy. But there is also a small percentage of the population that develops gambling addictions, and that demographic is often responsible for increases in crime.

A 2004 study conducted by the Department of Justice regarding people arrested in Las Vegas found that problem or pathological gamblers are three to five times likelier to commit a crime than the general population. Approximately 13 percent of problem gamblers arrested had assaulted someone for money, and problem gamblers were much more likely to have sold drugs than other arrestees. 

Casino Crime Incidences

Though Bruce found that MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor have not fueled a noticeable jump in lawbreaking, there have been recent incidences of criminality. 

In February, a New Hampshire man was arrested after trying to sell methamphetamine inside Encore Boston Harbor. When Matthew Gorman, 32, was detained, police found him in possession of two loaded semi-automatic pistols and three large-capacity magazines. 

And officials in West Springfield might not agree with Bruce’s findings. The city last July applied to the MGC for additional funds to cover what they claim has been an increased number of first responder calls. West Springfield says it received nearly 12,000 calls to 9-1-1 in the 12 months before MGM Springfield opened in 2018. The town says it received 13,789 calls in the 12 months after the casino commenced operations.