The MGM Springfield casino did not have a major impact on overall crime during its first full year in operation, according to research reported to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
Despite being the address for more than 200 arrests in the 12 months since it opened in August 2018, the downtown casino complex did not interrupt the steady and sizable decline in the total crime rate Springfield has experienced over the last decade.
" It has had an impact roughly of a shopping mall," said Christopher Bruce, a crime analyst, who presented a report to the gaming commission during a meeting in Springfield on February 27.
The report said crime at the casino was comparable to that at the Holyoke Mall – although there was more serious crime at the casino with five arrests for sexual assault and four for robbery.
Despite concerns before the casino opened that it would “cause” crime, there is no evidence to support that, according to the report prepared by Bruce. There was no increase in crime or calls for police service at nearby hotels, restaurants, bars, and gas stations – places that casino customers also patronize.
The report noted an increase in purse-snatchings, thefts from parked vehicles, shoplifting, and fraud in Springfield, but said any connection to the presence of the casino could not be established.
Bruce credited Springfield police for taking pro-active steps to improve public safety downtown in the years that led up to the opening of the $960 million resort casino.
"I think they have done a great job anticipating what might happen in the downtown area and responding effectively," said Bruce.
One part of the report that drew the attention of the commissioners concerned a 12 percent increase in drunk driving-caused car crashes that occurred in Springfield and surrounding towns last year. Also, seven people arrested for drunken driving in the last six months of 2019 reported they had their last drink at the casino –the highest number in the state for a single address.
Bruce called the drunk driving data an “ominous trend.” However he cautioned " it is a little too soon to get too alarmed."
Commissioner Gayle Cameron urged that steps be taken to reverse the trend.
"We are concerned and the team is already putting a strategy in place," said Cameron.
Research following the opening of the Plainridge Park slots casino in Plainville four years ago found the facility did not adversely impact public safety in southeastern Massachusetts.
Data is being compiled for analysis on the Encore Boston Harbor casino that opened last June.