Bay State gamblers subject of long-term study

BOSTON – The relationship between roughly 3,000 Massachusetts residents and the expanding menu of Bay State gambling options will form a unique data set for researchers around the globe, and a top gaming regulator hopes it will eventually rank among the most historic scientific surveys.

The cohort study – which has cost around $3 million so far – is the only one of its kind in the world to begin collecting data on gambling behavior before casinos throw open their doors, according to Rachel Volberg, a professor at UMass Amherst and lead researcher.

Surveys conducted almost entirely before the opening of the state's first slots parlor in 2015 appear to show that Massachusetts had more new cases of problem gambling than other jurisdiction, according to Volberg, who presented some initial findings to the Gaming Commission on Wednesday.

So far all of the data presented was collected before the introduction of casinos, which are scheduled to open over the next 18 months.

Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby said the structure of study would "ideally" look something like the Framingham Heart Study, which recruited thousands of Framingham residents to shed light on cardiovascular disease starting roughly seven decades ago.

The Massachusetts Gambling Impact Cohort Study – or MAGIC – first surveyed 4,860 people and then developed a cohort of 3,139 people that researchers will regularly check in on, enabling them to watch trends and witness individual narratives as gambling develops a further presence in the state.

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