Amanda Houpt, Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts (SEIGMA) Project Manager, reports on the recent Annual Meeting of the team, held at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
For most Americans, mid-April marks tax season and the return of spring. For the SEIGMA Research Team, April has additional significance as the anniversary of our project’s start date. It’s hard to believe it, but just a little over one year ago, the SEIGMA study launched. The team has been a flurry of activity ever since. To commemorate the one year anniversary of the project, we held a meeting on April 14-16. Expert advisors, principal investigators, team members, and members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission convened in Western Massachusetts to update each other on progress made, collaborate, and plan for the next year.
As the SEIGMA Project Manager, I found this meeting especially exciting because it marked my first face-to-face meeting with some of our key collaborators. I have weekly phone and e-mail conversations with many of these individuals, but having joined the project only seven months ago, I didn’t have the chance to meet them at SEIGMA’s initial kickoff meeting. It’s hard to explain how satisfying it is to put faces to familiar names and voices.
Beyond these face-to-face meetings, I valued the meeting because it gave me the chance to see the entire project with all its moving parts—baseline population survey, social impacts analysis, economic impacts analysis, problem gambling services evaluation, data management center—and appreciate all that we have accomplished thus far. As the Project Manager, I touch base with each working group on a regular basis and through this, get the chance to see each part of the study in isolation. I know the challenges that each working group faces on a weekly basis and I often assist with troubleshooting these issues as they arise. However, I don’t as often get to celebrate the successes of the project and the effort that this remarkable team puts in day in and day out.
In addition to allowing us to celebrate a first year of successes, the three-day meeting gave us all a chance to roll up our sleeves and work together. Expert advisors such as Mark Nichols had the chance to offer practical advice about the best ways to measure crime impacts from his wealth of experience studying this in other jurisdictions. Similarly, Co Principal Investigator Rob Williams shared helpful insights from his experiences studying gambling across the world. And Mike Johnson, a Principal Research Scientist at NORC, who is leading our primary data collection efforts, shared insights from his experiences working on studies of similar scale. Hearing these insights highlighted the immense expertise of this team and the uniqueness of SEIGMA for bringing the entire research team together.
You can get a sense of annual meeting happenings elsewhere on our website, both from the many news stories that were written about it and from the report that we produced to summarize the progress that we have made thus far.
Below: The SEIGMA team gathered together at UMass Amherst, along with Massachusetts Gaming Commissioners Stephen Crosby & Enrique Zuniga.