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SEIGMA Co-PI Volberg wins grant from Massachusetts Gaming Commission for new gambling study

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission recently announced that it will partner with a team led by SEIGMA Co-Principal Investigator Rachel Volberg to conduct a first-of-its-kind, multi-year cohort study to examine how gambling problems develop over time and thus illuminate the causes of problem gambling. This ground-breaking research project, known as the Massachusetts Gambling Impact Cohort (MAGIC) study, will have significant value as it will highlight factors critical to developing strategic and data-driven problem gambling prevention, treatment and recovery support services in Massachusetts.

According to Steve Crosby, Chairman of the Commission; “A key and truly distinguishing feature of the Commonwealth’s expanded gaming law was to establish a comprehensive research agenda to assess the impacts of casino gambling in Massachusetts. The Commission looks forward to implementing this thoughtful mandate with enthusiasm and innovation,” Chairman Crosby added, “MAGIC promises to be a landmark study, providing new and much needed information about incidence rates and the course of problem gambling in Massachusetts. MAGIC will yield important and unique information leading to treatment and prevention initiatives that are specifically tailored to the needs of the people of the Commonwealth.”

“Massachusetts is nationally recognized for leadership in public health and this initiative is yet another example that demonstrates that commitment, "said Cheryl Bartlett, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

The study’s Principal Investigator, Dr. Rachel Volberg of the UMass Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences, said “This is the first major cohort study of gambling etiology to be carried out in the United States and we are tremendously excited about the synergies that will be possible with the Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts (SEIGMA) study that is already underway at UMass Amherst. We anticipate learning a great deal about how gambling problems among Massachusetts residents develop, progress and remit—information that will assist the Gaming Commission and the Department of Public Health in crafting the right mix of programs and services to effectively prevent and mitigate gambling harm in the Commonwealth.”

The Commission released a Request for Proposals on November 20, 2013 to address the third component of the statutorily mandated research agenda, including:

  • Establishing a baseline estimate of problem gambling prior to the opening of new gaming facilities;
  • Assessing the incidence of new cases of problem gambling in Massachusetts;
  • Assessing patterns of continuity and discontinuity in gambling behavior as well as recovery from problems; and
  • Assessing the impacts over time on various age cohorts related to environmental changes including casino proximity, gaming advertising, public attitudes, and the development of treatment and prevention programs.

The Procurement Management Team that evaluated the proposals included U.S. researchers and partners at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. This team unanimously selected the proposal from the University of Massachusetts Amherst for its potential to make a significant contribution to Massachusetts by providing critical information to target resources for problem gambling prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery support. The proposal was also selected because of its methodological strength, cost-effectiveness, and the demonstrated excellence of its research team. In addition to their experience implementing longitudinal cohort studies in other jurisdictions, the UMass Amherst research team has been working with the Commission for the past two years to carry out the SEIGMA study, which uses different methods to evaluate the social and economic impacts of gambling expansion in Massachusetts.

Each study will produce considerable evidence relevant to the other study’s focus. Thus, the findings of both studies will be synergistic, producing results much richer than any stand-alone effort.

The cost of the first year of the study is estimated at $963,000 and future years are projected to operate at the same level. The study will launch later this month, with its first wave of data collection taking place in January 2015. Following that, data will be collected annually.

Volberg appears on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show

SEIGMA Principal Investigator Rachel Volberg recently participated in a discussion about benefits and drawbacks of the casino industry on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show. Speaking about the UMass Amherst study, she said, "the idea here is to sort of create a virtuous circle, if you will, of regulating through the use of ongoing empirical evidence of what the impacts are so that those can be addressed in a rapid way, before they spiral out into things that are so big that they are very difficult to address." Other guests included American Gaming Association president and CEO Geoff Freeman, Boston College professor Richard McGowan, and Urban  Institute Tax Policy Center fellow Tracy Gordon. Listen here.

SEIGMA team meets with Massachusetts Gaming Commissioners at annual meeting

Researchers on the Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts (SEIGMA) study recently held their annual meeting on campus. Team members including faculty and staff from the University of Massachusetts and experts from across North America came together to review progress of the study, believed to be the first of its kind to study social and economic impacts of gambling both before and after legalized gambling. On April 15 the research team met with representatives from several state agencies and organizations, including the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Department of Transportation, Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling, and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC). Commissioners Stephen Crosby and Enrique Zuniga from the MGC met with press during a break in discussion. Peruse the coverage in the links below:

Boston Herald quotes Volberg in article

SEIGMA team member Rachel Volberg was interviewed for a Boston Herald story on a visit by members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) to the SEIGMA Annual meeting. "This is an attempt to take a snapshot of what gambling behavior looks like in Massachusetts before casinos," says Volberg in the article. Read more here.

Volberg advises on Casino Health Impact Assessment report

SEIGMA team member Rachel Volberg was recently a member of the Advisory Committee for the Western Massachusetts Casino Health Impact Assessment, created by Springfield nonprofit Partners for a Healthier Community. Volberg provided input and feedback on the report, which assesses possible health impacts of a casino in the region and includes suggestions to ease negative results and improve positive ones. Read the report here.

SEIGMA team member Salame featured in CBS3 news report

Laurie Salame, an expert advisor for the Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts (SEIGMA) team, was recently featured in a CBS3 news report about the UMass Amherst Isenberg School of Management's annual Hospitality and Tourism Management career fair. Salame, who teaches in the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, spoke with the local news affiliate about casino job opportunities for students. Watch the report here.

SEIGMA team members to appear on radio show

Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts (SEIGMA) team members Rachel Volberg and Laurie Salame will participate in a radio program discussing gambling and hosted by Boston NPR station WBUR. The program, "WBUR on Tap," takes place Feb. 27 from 6 to 7 p.m. Read more here.

Volberg featured on MA Council on Compulsive Gambling blog

SEIGMA team member Rachel Volberg recently contributed a guest blog to the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling. In it, Volberg previews some of her upcoming presentation at the Massachusetts Conference on Gambling Problems, taking place Thursday, April 10 at 1:00 p.m. Read more here.

SEIGMA profiled by UMass Amherst website

Researchers on the Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts (SEIGMA) team recently spoke with UMass Amherst website ResearchNext about their work.

“I think we really have an opportunity to watch these issues as they unfold over time, as well as an opportunity to intervene in ways that aren’t possible unless you actually have the empirical evidence,” says co-investigator Rachel Volberg. Read more here.

Volberg discusses gambling research on Amherst Media television program

SEIGMA team member Rachel Volberg recently appeared on an episode of Amherst Media television program Difficult Dialogues. The show, hosted by Mount Holyoke College President Lynn Pasquerella, focused on Volberg's research on problem gambling and casino development in Massachusetts. Watch the program here.