Plainville, MA Sees No Increase In Violent Crimes Since Casino Launch
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No, The Introduction of Casino Gambling in Massachusetts Hasn’t Sparked A Massive Crime Wave

Massachusetts Peaceful
In an attempt to mitigate the harmful aspects of gambling while maximizing benefits, Massachusetts has approached casino expansion in a very cautions and careful way.

Whether it’s responsible gaming pilot programs or data-driven research to gauge the impact of casino gambling, Massachusetts is blazing a new path.

One of the first pieces of significant data is now in. To the delight of casino advocates, it shows that the launch of the state’s first brick & mortar casino has only had a minor and expected impact on crime in the surrounding area.

Massachusetts to keep watchful eye on casino industry

As part of its ongoing research on the in-state impact of casino gambling, Massachusetts has requested yearly reports on the economic and crime impact of casinos.

This data collection began several years before casinos opened, to give the state a baseline for comparison, and will continue in perpetuity.

The most recent crime report, unveiled during a public meeting of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, offers the first opportunity to compare pre-casino data with post-casino data over the course of a full calendar year, as Plainridge Park Casino opened its doors on June 24, 2015.

The data collection and analysis performed in Massachusetts is believed to be the most comprehensive in gaming history.

And it should help confirm or deny some of the longstanding beliefs about casinos, such as increases in crime, increases in bankruptcy, property value depreciation, and more.

Methodology

The crime report was compiled at the behest of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission by Christopher W. Bruce, a trainer and consultant in crime analysis and data-driven policing.

The raw data comes from five local police forces (Plainville, Attleboro, Mansfield, North Attleborough, and Wrentham), as well as state police and RAMS.

The report considers six correlations to the presence of the casino:

  1. Type of crime logically tied to activity at casino
  2. More offenders and victims from outside the local area
  3. Same category increasing in multiple agencies
  4. Complementary increases in related offenses
  5. Casino specifically mentioned by offenders/victims
  6. Increase is spatially related to location of casino

The researchers admit the current limitations from a lack of historical data, saying, “Future reports will be better able to demonstrate relationship between casino and crime quantitatively.”

The elevator summary

The crime report begins with the following top-line summary:

“Since its opening in June 2015, Plainridge Park has shown crime and call-for-service totals commensurate with similarly-sized and trafficked facilities. As for the surrounding community, the totality of the evidence shows little impact on most crimes and calls for service. The casino may have influenced an increase in credit card fraud, identity theft, and “con games” in the region, although more analysis is needed. The presence of the casino also does seem related to increases in the types of calls for service that one would expect to increase with extra traffic and people in the area, including traffic collisions, lost property, and citizen complaints of traffic problems. The analysis is complicated by changes in reporting practices at several of the participating agencies.”

The summary sets the stage for the report’s findings, which were by and large positive.

Findings and analysis

In Plainville, the data does show an increase in both property and total crime, and a small uptick in calls for service:

  • Zero percent increase in violent crime
  • 10 percent increase in property crime
  • 14 percent increase in total crime
  • Three percent increase in calls for service

The report also notes that the addition of the casino led to the hiring of five additional officers in Plainville, a 36 percent increase for the force, which now numbers 19 officers.

But this increase is not unexpected, considering a venue that attracts as many visitors as a casino is bound to cause an increase in crime rates. The measuring stick for crime is based on local population size, not on the number of visitors.

Balancing the equation

To offset the statistical issue, the report compares the crime rates at Plainridge Park Casino with other nearby locations, such as Xfinity Center (a concert venue) and Wrentham Village Outlets, a large outdoor outlet mall.

 

CommunityTop Offense Location% Violent Crimes% Property Crime% Total Crimes% Calls For Service
PlainvillePlainridge Park0%11%16%10%
Plainville #2Plainville Commons0%13%10%2%
AttleboroBristol Place1%10%7%3%
MansfieldXfinity Center24%5%64%<1%
N. AttleboroughEmerald Square6%22%16%9%
WrenthamWrentham Outlets12%59%55%22%
The report suggests the following are “likely related to presence of casino.”

Overall, the addition of the casino has been less impactful than most of the other high traffic venues in the area. Notably, there has been no increase in violent crime whatsoever.

That being said, the casino does seem to be causing increases in specific types of crime:

  • Increase in credit card fraud (this has decreased and leveled off following a surge right after the casino opened)
  • Increases in traffic-related calls for service, primarily in Plainville, buts somewhat in North Attleborough
  • Minor increase in traffic collisions on Route 1

The report also suggests the following are “possibly related” to the presence of the casino:

  • Increases in regular fraud/con games
  • Increase in drunk driving in three communities

Bottom line findings from the report

The researchers offered five takeaways:

  • In the first 12 months of activity, Plainridge Park produced crime and call figures commensurate with similarly-sized facilities in the region.
  • There were few significant increases in crimes in the surrounding area.
  • Most significant increases were tied to traffic activity: complaints, collisions, disabled vehicles, and suspicious vehicles.
  • There is some evidence of increases in economic crimes (credit card fraud, con games) tied to the casino’s presence.
  • Further studies are needed with full comparison datasets for crime and traffic collisions when data is available in 2017.

Upshot

Crime has increased since Plainridge Park Casino opened its doors, but the increase is on par with similarly sized facilities. The uptick is expected based on the increased traffic and visitation to the casino.

Comparing the data, it’s pretty clear that a community will see less crime from a casino than from a major shopping complex — Wrentham Village Outlets or Emerald Square Mall — and far less violent crime.

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Steve Ruddock
- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.