Massachusetts Casino Drinks Lead to Increase in Impaired Driving

Publication date: January 31, 2022 at 10:18.

Last update on: January 31, 2022, 10:18 pm.

There have been tens of thousands of DUIs or cases of poor driving in Massachusetts since commercial casinos opened as of 2015, according to an analysis recently submitted to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC). Since then, there have been various comments about the data.

There is a strong link between the presence of a casino in a province and the number of alcohol-related fatal traffic accidents
Massachusetts Gaming Commission member Brad Hill (right), pictured above. The former state lawmaker was “happy to hear the ‘disabled driving trip numbers’ are ‘not as high as I thought they might be’ due to the presence of casinos.” (picture: Salem News)

During Thursday’s meeting, MGC member Brad Hill, R Ipswich, said he was “happy to hear … the numbers aren’t as high as I thought they might be.” Hill, the former state representative, voted in favor of an expanded gaming law of 2011 that allowed the state’s three commercial gaming properties to open, according to State House News Servicea news agency in the state of Massachusetts.

Christopher Bruce, an advisor to MGC, acknowledged to the commissioners that “a certain number of additional driving trips while under the influence of alcohol is unavoidable when you have alcohol-serving facilities.” He warned that this could lead to DUI arrests and collisions.

Unless we notice a number of accidents much higher than we estimate the total to be…then we can say that casinos are likely operating optimally and deterring as much as possible from drunk driving,” added Bruce.

Massachusetts commercial casinos are Plainridge Park Casino, MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor. “I don’t see any evidence or hear any evidence that they aren’t complying yet,” Bruce said of the efforts places are to comply with alcohol use rules.

Fines were imposed for omissions. Last March, MGM Springfield was fined $18,000 for allowing minor customers onto the casino floor. One of the minors also received a free alcoholic drink. Under Massachusetts law, anyone under the age of 21 is not permitted to be in a casino gaming hall. The minimum age for drinking alcohol is 21 years old as well.

The Challenge of “Natural Increase”

When asked to comment on MGC’s response, Reverend Richard McGowan, a professor of finance at Boston College who closely follows New England gambling trends, said:‘I must say I find it amusing that Commissioner Hill seems pleased that this is just a ‘normal’ increase.

“I wonder if Commissioner Hill knows the ripple effect on families, etc., when drunk drivers kill other innocent drivers,” McGowan added.

In 2010, a study was published in Journal of Health EconomicsThere is a strong link between the presence of a casino in a county and the number of fatal alcohol-related traffic accidents.

McGowan also points out that the number of car accidents, as well as the number of DUIs, is just one of the casino’s negative outcomes. He added that gaming venues make alcohol readily available and some say it encourages its consumption.

What can he do?

To help curb the problem, Bruce said, police can selectively enforce patrol roads to and from gaming properties. MGC members also discussed the option of a marketing effort to warn of the dangers of a DUI.

Elsewhere, some states prohibit serving free alcoholic beverages to patrons, McGowan said. Other states limit the number of hours that alcohol can be served.

“I doubt these actions have any appreciable effect on DUI rates,” McGowan advised. “It seems that attending the casino one gets drunk either to celebrate a win or to drown out your sorrows.”

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