SPRINGFIELD ― The MGM Springfield casino attracted about as much crime in its first year as “a large shopping mall,” according to research commissioned by state regulators as they seek to understand how the nascent Massachusetts casino industry has affected public safety.
The findings, delivered Thursday as the Massachusetts Gaming Commission met in Springfield, are the most detailed look to date at crime around a full-service casino in Massachusetts. Researchers have not yet released similar data from the more recently opened Encore Boston Harbor in Everett.
Researchers said the $960 million Springfield facility became one of the area’s highest-crime addresses in the 12 months following its opening in late August 2018. But they found that the effect of the casino was relatively modest, given its massive scale in the context of the city. Crime at the casino was comparable to that at the nearby Holyoke Mall ― which had more total crime but less violent crime ― and that it did not have a major effect on the overall crime rates of the area, as some had feared.
“To the extent that the casino has ‘caused’ crime, however, it seems largely confined to the casino itself,” read the report, prepared by Christopher Bruce, a crime analyst consulting for the commission.
There were 208 arrests at the casino from September 2018 to August of last year. Some incidents involving police were serious; there were five reports of sexual assault and four reports of robbery. But Bruce’s report said most of the issues at the casino were less severe.
“Nothing existed at 1 MGM Way before MGM Springfield, except a construction site, so anything that happens at the casino specifically can be said to have directly contributed to an increase in crime in Springfield, regardless if the casino influenced increases in crime in the area or not,” Bruce wrote.
But the report suggested that increased public safety measures may have balanced out some potential issues in the immediate area.
“We want to thank the police for their vigilance and partnership," MGM Springfield officials said in a statement, adding that they have spent millions of dollars on security. “We continue to be reassured by the report’s findings that there has been no significant increase in major crime within the community correlated with MGM Springfield.”
Beyond the casino, the report found little evidence that some of the most concerning scenarios offered prior to MGM Springfield’s opening had come to pass.
“Despite hypotheses from before the casino opened, there is so far no sign that the presence of the casino has increased crime or calls for service at hotels, restaurants, bars, and gas stations,” the report said, noting that one nearby gas station had experienced some issues. “Nor has it increased activity specifically within the radiuses of highway exits to and from the facility.”
There were some areas of concern: More crashes and traffic incidents occurred in the area, and police activity increased in a few locations near the casino. The report also cited some possible connections to a pattern of thefts from vehicles and a spike in purse snatchings nearby, along with an increase in incidents of fraud.
Another point that drew the attention of the commission was the fact that seven people in drunken-driving cases from July 2019 to January 2020 reported they had their last drink in the casino before getting behind the wheel. That was the highest number in the state for any single address, Bruce told the commission.
Andy Rosen can be reached at email@example.com.