Guest Blog from UMass-Amherst: With input from the MGC, the UMass research team holds a kick-off meeting, implementing the research agenda and beginning their work under the new contract

The UMass Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts (SEIGMA) research team recently held a 2-day kick-off meeting at UMass, Amherst, bringing in team members not only from UMass, but from Nevada, Chicago, and Alberta as well. The team benefited greatly from the presence of Chairman Stephen Cosby and Commissioner Enrique Zuniga, who were able to join for the entirety of Day One. This offered the group a unique opportunity to not only review the comprehensive research agenda’s goals and objectives, but to roll up their sleeves and work together on the initial project management logistics.

Chairman Crosby told the group that the MGC “took the [already] broad research agenda in the legislation and tried to interpret it as broadly as possible” in order to establish a plan that would most benefit the citizens of the Commonwealth over the long term. He discussed the advantages of working with other state agencies whose interests and activities are likely to intersect with the social or economic impacts of casino gaming, keeping them informed and involved as the data required under the research agenda is gathered. The SEIGMA team expressed excitement at the notion of working cooperatively with a wide range of constituents who have information and expertise in the areas being researched, from state agencies, to non-profit organizations, to local and community groups, and local governments.

Commissioner Zuniga shared the team’s enthusiasm in launching this important project, noting that the work will be “exciting and challenging at the same time because it has never been done before.” He said that he was looking forward to working with the team and sharing the resources of the MGC on an ongoing basis. Chairman Crosby echoed that sentiment, stating that the MGC would be coordinating the team’s efforts with their soon-to-be-named Research and Problem Gambling Director.

The SEIGMA team members presented information on their responsibilities and activities at each phase of the project, including areas such as:

  • the overall research plan and project management,
  • primary data collection plans,
  • secondary social and economic data collection plans,
  • prevention and treatment services evaluation,
  • population and targeted surveys, key informant interviews and focus groups,
  • employee and patron surveys, and
  • gambling venue data collection.

Throughout the day the SEIGMA team was able to ask the commissioners their thoughts and opinions and seek clarification as they formulated their action steps. In turn, the team was able to offer ideas to the commissioners on pending actions which could have an impact on the needs of the research agenda.

The study’s Principal Investigator, Professor Rachel Volberg of the UMass Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences (SPHHS), herself a 28-year veteran in the field of gambling research, led the group through a detailed agenda, ensuring the time was used to its greatest advantage, tapping into the expertise of those in attendance. Co-Principal Investigator Professor Robert J. Williams, Professor of Health Sciences at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada and Research Coordinator of the Alberta Gambling Research Institute, whose work was used extensively by the MGC in drafting their research agenda, was on hand to walk through the theoretical framework of the study as well as many details of implementing the various tasks. Dan Hodge and his colleagues at the UMass Donahue Institute focused on the economic pieces they would be pulling together, while Rosa Rodriguez-Monguio and others from SPHHS discussed their role on the social impact side. UMass faculty Laurie Salame, of the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management in the Isenberg School of Management, reviewed the patron and employee surveys, and Kari Carris, from NORC in Chicago shared information regarding the population survey.

Day Two of the meeting saw a smaller group organize the specific tasks for immediate action, with the primary focus on the large baseline population survey. This survey must be completed prior to the award of casino licenses, when casino locations would be known, to ensure the integrity of the responses. An important part of the agenda included identifying both the data collection procedures as well as the questionnaire to be used, and the team was successful on both counts.

Moving forward, the SEIGMA research team will be working on multiple fronts, engaging with stakeholders around the Commonwealth, finalizing the contract and staffing arrangements, and carrying out the many tasks needed to successfully roll out the baseline population survey.

Our UMass-Amherst team looks forward to providing MGC and its blog followers with continued updates on this important project!

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