UMASS team to measure effects of casinos

People on both sides of the gambling debate have made plenty of predictions about what the introduction of casinos will mean for Massachusetts. The state gambling commission today announced a massive, long-term scientific study that could help determine which side is right.

A University of Massachusetts-Amherst team will conduct a $3.64 million research project for the commission, believed to be the first of its kind, on the economic and social effects of permitting casinos in Massachusetts – including an emphasis on problem gambling, according to the school and the commission.

Epidemiologist Rachel Volberg and biostatistician Edward Stanek will lead the project. Volberg has studied gambling and problem gambling for more than 25 years. She is the author of the 2001 book: “When the Chips are Down — Problem Gambling in America.”

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“This is the first time that the question of how the impacts of casino gambling change over time will be addressed in a comprehensive way,” Volberg said in a statement. “No other jurisdiction in the world has attempted such an effort.”

The state’s 2011 casino law requires the gambling commission to establish an “annual research agenda” to understand the effects of casino gaming in Massachusetts.

The UMass research will include a large baseline survey of state residents before casinos open, and then more research over several years on the effects of casino gambling, once the commission awards development rights for as many as three resort casinos and one slot parlor.