BY JOANNE WONG
Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chair Stephen Crosby spoke with community members about the new casino industry and its positive and negative impact at the Asian American Civic Association on Oct. 18.
“Casino gambling is controversial, but the law has been passed. We need to do it well, and we need to do it right to make sure that it is a participatory, transparent and fair process,” Crosby said.
Statistics show that $5 billion is gambled in Massachusetts. That amount is equivalent to $800 per capita, including all men, women and children.
Gaming legislation that was passed last November divides the state into three regions: West, East and Southeast. The Gaming Commission is authorized to license up to one casino per region, as well as one slots parlor anywhere in the state.
“Problem gambling is an unquestionable phenomenon, where some people cannot control their participation,” Crosby said. He acknowledged the downside of establishing new casinos in the state.
According to Crosby, the laws offer support and resources to help gambling addicts. Approximately $6 million will be set aside for compulsive gambling prevention and assistance efforts. In addition, a research component will be built into the implementation of the new casinos. Baseline and longitudinal studies will be conducted to study the changes in demographics and effectiveness of intervention strategies. Best practice research from casinos in other states will be leveraged to inform the Commonwealth about problem gambling.
Crosby encouraged clear communication and participation from community leaders who will bring a cultural perspective and inform the Commission on actions to take to curb the issue of compulsive gambling. In addition, the Commission plans on placing as much pressure on casinos as they can so casino staff don’t strategize to abuse compulsive gamblers.
In terms of economic gains, Crosby estimated 8,000 to 10,000 permanent jobs will be added. Staff will receive specific training and the Commission is planning on collaborating with organizations to develop workforce development plans.
The Commission plans to hold more open public meetings and forums to outreach to communities and mitigate the negative impacts on the cities and towns where the casinos may be erected.
The applications for slots parlors and casinos were released Oct. 19, and interested bidders must go through an extensive background check to ensure the financial integrity of the institution. Bidders must place a nonrefundable deposit of $400,000. So far, four major institutions have expressed interest in bidding for a casino in the Western region of the state.
Crosby expected casino licenses to be issued as soon as the end of next year.
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