Casino Health Impact Forum Held in Springfield

Public health officials in Springfield held a community forum last night, part of an ongoing study on the health impacts of a future casino in western Massachusetts, but some say the study is too late.

The study aims to assess negative and positive community health impacts of a casino. Frank Robinson is executive director of Partners for a Healthier Community, the lead organizer of the study, along with UMass public health researchers and Springfield’s Department of health and human services. Robinson says the assessment will eventually monitor long-term casino impacts.

“We have a baseline on conditions, we make a prediction as to how improved or how challenged a community will be, and then we look, say, 5 years out. Has the community improved, or are there still problems?”

About twenty attendees were asked to choose the areas where a casino could impact public health. The top three were gambling and addiction, crime, and public safety, though more positive impacts like jobs and tourism were also included. But participants expressed disappointment a health assessment wasn’t conducted sooner. Zaida Govan is a Springfield resident.

“This study’s not even going to be done or completed by July 16th, when it is that we have to vote. So it would have been nice if we had done it a year ago, or two years ago so that we would know the impact of casino coming to Springfield.”

The vote is on a referendum to approve or reject MGM’s proposed casino for the city. Forum organizers say the study will be released sometime in November, with some preliminary findings coming out in August. Robinson says one forum was already held in Palmer, and another is planned for West Springfield.