An African American Perspective on Gambling in Massachusetts

May 21st, 2019 | News


To develop an effective strategy to prevent and treat problem gambling, we must be aware of the factors—whether crime, poverty, addiction, the community, or a lack of social services—that contribute to it. This recommendation comes from a recent study, “Casinos and Gambling in Massachusetts: African American Perspectives” study, headed by Rodolfo Vega, JSI senior consultant. The study was funded by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and examined African Americans’ perceptions and beliefs about casinos and other forms of gambling.

JSI conducted five focus groups with African American participants throughout Massachusetts. Discussions centered on life context, general gambling experiences and behaviors, and views about casinos in MA as a whole.

“The take-home message of the study is that to understand problem gambling among African Americans, one needs to take into account the contexts in which they live work, and play,” said Dr. Vega. “Many of the people who participated in our study do not gamble for recreation or leisure, but as a way to escape poverty. Factors that accompany poverty, such as structural racism, discrimination, poor housing, and exposure to crime, all affect gambling behavior and its transformation into problem gambling.”

This study establishes a baseline for additional research to mitigate the negative effects of gambling. We hope that more casinos will work with their public health counterparts and take responsible measures to minimize harm in the communities they move into.

More recently, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission awarded JSI additional funding to conduct a similar study in the Hispanic community of Hampden County, which is ranked as the poorest and lowest in Massachusetts in terms of health indicators.

Read the full study.

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