The University of Massachusetts Amherst


SEIGMA Team Releases Results of Baseline Survey about Gambling Attitudes, Participation, and Problems in Massachusetts

On Thursday, June 11th, the Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts (SEIGMA) research team from the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at UMass Amherst released a comprehensive report of findings from a large baseline population survey that assessed Massachusetts residents’ attitudes about gambling, gambling participation, and gambling-related problems. Nearly 10,000 Massachusetts residents completed the survey, making it the largest and most representative gambling survey ever conducted in the United States.

The survey is just one piece of the broader SEIGMA Study that is unique in obtaining information about gambling involvement and problem gambling prevalence prior to the introduction of casino gambling. The project is part of a legislatively mandated research agenda, which is funded and overseen by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC). Findings from this survey—completed well before any casino or slot machine gambling was available in Massachusetts—will be essential in developing strategies to minimize gambling-related harm.

“The most important point is that we are establishing baseline conditions for every socio and economic variable that might be affected by the introduction of casinos,” said MGC Chairman Steve Crosby. “Our researchers will then track changes in those variables over the entire life of the casinos in order to know to a certainty the consequences and to inform data-driven mitigation strategies for any potential negative consequences.”

SEIGMA Principal Investigator Rachel Volberg stated, “Not many people realize how unusual it is for a problem gambling survey to be completed before some new type of gambling becomes available. The Commonwealth is fortunate that both the Expanded Gaming Act and the MGC so clearly and forcefully supported such an effort and I am excited to share our findings before any casinos begin operations in our state.”

Data were collected from September 2013 to May 2014. Respondents were randomly selected to participate in the survey and could complete it online, on paper, or by phone. Respondents were asked about their participation in the following gambling activities: lottery games, raffles, sports betting, bingo, casino gambling, betting on horse racing, wagering against others, and online gambling. The survey also asked about respondents’ attitudes toward gambling, gambling-related problems, prevention awareness, and use of available problem gambling services.

Highlights from the survey include:

  • Over half of Massachusetts adults (59%) perceive the impact of gambling expansion on the state to be neutral, beneficial, or very beneficial while 41% perceive the impact to be somewhat or very harmful
  • In contrast to this, about half of respondents (46%) perceive the impact of gambling expansion on their own communities to be harmful while a little over a quarter (28%) perceive the impact to be beneficial
  • Overall, nearly three quarters of Massachusetts residents (72%) report participating in at least one gambling activity in the past year
  • Nearly 6 in 10 people report playing the lottery
  • Just under a quarter (22%) of Massachusetts adults report visiting casinos to gamble
  • Over half of people who do so (65%) visit casinos in Connecticut
  • While a quarter of the population does not gamble, close to 40% gamble yearly, 20% gamble monthly, and 15% gamble weekly
  • There are significant differences in overall gambling participation associated with gender, age, and race/ethnicity:
    • Men are more likely to gamble than women
    • Middle-aged adults are more likely to gamble than younger adults
    • Whites are more likely to gamble than Hispanics, Blacks or Asians
  • The current prevalence of problem gambling in Massachusetts is 1.7% of the adult population
  • An additional 7.5% of the population are at-risk gamblers
  • Based on the percentages above, it is estimated that between 67,500 and 109,100 adult residents are problem gamblers and between 353,400 and 426,200 adult residents are at-risk gamblers
  • There were significant differences in problem gambling associated with gender, race/ethnicity, and education:
    • Men are 3 times more likely to have a gambling problem than women
    • Blacks are 4 times more likely to have a gambling problem than Whites
    • Individuals with only a high school diploma are 2 times more likely to have a gambling problem than individuals with a college degree
  • About 4 in 10 Massachusetts residents are aware of media campaigns to prevent problem gambling
  • However, just over 1 in 10 of adults is aware of non-media prevention programs in schools and communities around the state
  • The number of respondents who report desiring or seeking is too small to report, indicating a potentially underserved population that may be in need of treatment or other services

While these key findings offer a lot of information about gambling and gambling-related problems in Massachusetts, the SEIGMA Research Team is planning deeper analyses of the data in coming months. These analyses will examine factors that may contribute to or cause problem gambling, relationships between gambling attitudes and gambling participation, and factors associated with particular types of gambling. In addition to this survey, the SEIGMA Research Team has collected a substantial amount of secondary social and health data. In partnership with the UMass Donahue Institute, the team is also conducting a comprehensive analysis of the economic and fiscal impacts of expanded gambling. All of the data collected by the SEIGMA team will be made public over time, to enable other researchers and stakeholders to interact with the data and conduct their own analyses, adding to the body of knowledge about gambling in Massachusetts.

The SEIGMA team will repeat the survey one year after all of the new gaming facilities have become operational in Massachusetts to measure the impacts of gambling expansion in Massachusetts. Measuring the same behaviors and using the same methods at subsequent points in time will be useful in monitoring changes in attitudes, gambling participation, and problem gambling prevalence in Massachusetts. Results of this and subsequent surveys will be useful in developing data-driven strategies to promote responsible gambling, raise awareness about problem gambling, and design general and targeted prevention and treatment programs for problem gamblers and their families.

View a PDF of the Executive Summary here.

View a PDF of the Full Report here.

SEIGMA Blog: Research Assistants make up vital part of data analysis

SEIGMA Web Manager Matthew Medeiros recently wrote a blog post highlighting the dozen UMass research assistants that joined the project this academic year. The RAs have been hard at work analyzing data for the upcoming release of SEIGMA’s baseline survey results. Read more here.

SEIGMA Blog: Measuring the Economic Effects of Casinos on Local Areas

SEIGMA Expert Advisor Mark Nichols, Ph.D., recently wrote a blog post highlighting a white paper he co-wrote with the UMass Donahue Institute Economic and Public Policy Research Group. The blog examines community matching, one of the methods the SEIGMA team will use to analyze the economic impacts of gaming venues in Massachusetts. Read more here.

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. Read the full announcement here.

Check the press coverage of MAGIC and SEIGMA in the links below:

SEIGMA Blog: A Key Resource for Understanding Gambling Impacts

SEIGMA Expert Advisor Laurie Salame recently wrote a blog highlighting “The Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling" report. Published by the Canadian Consortium for Gambling Research, it contains an extensive review of existing literature on the social and economic impacts of gambling. The report also proposes a theoretical framework for future socioeconomic impact studies, which the SEIGMA study uses. Read more here.

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.