A Massachusetts news outlet decided to investigate the increase in crime since the opening of the Encore Boston Harbor casino in June. But did they report the whole story?

Channel WCVB 5 in Boston ran a story titled, Crime on rise since Everett casino opened in June, which takes the $2.5 billion casino to task for an increase in crime in the area.

It’s an interesting look at the numbers, but the story only briefly alludes to the simple fact that crime is supposed to increase when a venue opens that draws thousands of people.

More People Means an Increase in Crime

As Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chair Gayle Cameron told WCVB, “I’m not surprised. I’m not. We anticipated there’d be some issues.”

An independent study commissioned to research what if any crime-related changes occurred following the opening of Massachusetts’s casinos had a similar takeaway.

According to the 2016 study on crime in and around Plainridge Park Casino in its first year of operation:

“Since its opening in June 2015, Plainridge Park has shown crime and call-for-service totals commensurate with similarly-sized and trafficked facilities. As for the surrounding community, the totality of the evidence shows little impact on most crimes and calls for service… The presence of the casino also does seem related to increases in the types of calls for service that one would expect to increase with extra traffic and people in the area, including traffic collisions, lost property, and citizen complaints of traffic problems.”

What Commissioner Cameron’s comments and what the research study is saying are simple. Wherever you have an inordinate number of visitors you can expect high crime rates. Whether it’s a beach, a theme park, a mall, a concert venue, or a casino you can expect abnormally high crime rates.

A Rise in Crime Is an Old Trope

As I’m wonted to say, statistics without context are just numbers. And the framing of those statistics can create a very persuasive argument. The casino industry deals with the “increased crime” talking point whenever a new one is proposed.

The fear of crime increases was first stoked during the legislative process that brought casinos to Massachusetts. As host communities were being selected, out of context crime rates (and traffic jams) were a frequent talking point from anti-casino camps.

And adding to the confusion, crime rates are reported by local population, and don’t account for visitation. That helps explain why Orlando has one of the highest crime rates in the country.

The truth of the matter is casinos are typically much safer than other high-traffic areas.

Take this comparison of Plainridge Park and other area attractions from the same 2016 report cited above.

CommunityTop Offense Location% Violent Crimes% Property Crimes% Total Crimes% Calls for Service
PlainvillePlainridge Park0%11%16%10%
Plainville #2Plainville Commons0%13%10%2%
AttleboroBristol Place1%10%7%3%
MansfieldXfinity Center24%5%64%<1%
N AttleboroughEmerald Square6%22%16%9%
WrenthamWrentham outlets12%59%55%22%

That isn’t to say that casinos are all rainbows and puppy dogs. They do attract certain types of criminal activity.

The Massachusetts’s report did connect Plainridge Park Casino with:

  • Increased rates of credit card fraud.
  • Increases in traffic-related calls for service, including impaired driving.

That said, if crime was your primary concern and your town had the opportunity to approve an outlet mall, a concert venue, or a casino, you should welcome the casino with open arms.

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