A detailed study for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission of the Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, MA has shown a direct link to an increase in crime.

The report released on March 1 was conducted by Christopher W. Bruce, a career criminal analyst with experience working for Massachusetts police departments, colleges and the U.S. Justice Department. He looked at trends and data, and his determination is not flattering for the first casino, which isn't even really a casino since it doesn't offer table games. The state is going to see at least two actual casinos open soon, one in Springfield and one in Everett, that will dwarf the operation in Plainville.

The report's major findings include:

1. The casino directly (i.e., incidents on casino property) led to a 10 percent increase in property crime, a 12 percent increase in total crime, and a percent increase in calls for service from the Plainville Police Department.

2. Based on a totality of the quantitative and qualitative evidence, Bruce's judgement is that the following trends in the surrounding community are “likely” to be related to the presence of Plainridge Park:

--Increases in credit card fraud in multiple communities during the first year (the trend abated in the second year).
--At least part of an increase in traffic collisions in the area, including those reported to the State Police.
--An increase in “lost property” reports in Plainville.
--An increase in “suspicious activity” reports in Plainville.
--An increase in traffic complaints in Plainville.

3. There were 152 arrests at the casino in the first two years of operation.

Some of the crimes detailed in the report include:

1. Theft of gaming credits, generally in the form of TITO tickets, committed by one patron against another (at least 80 in two years). The offending patron snatches a ticket printed by the victim and cashes it in, often before the victim notices that it’s gone. Because of widespread surveillance, the GEU and casino security have generally been able to identify and charge the perpetrators. Casino policy is to make restitution to the victims in such cases so the casino, rather than the patron, takes the loss.

2. Drug use and distribution outside the casino (at least 40). The parking garages and lots have been sites for drug users to ingest cocaine, heroin, and marijuana in their vehicles. Such individuals are generally identified by security and reported to the GEU or the Plainville Police.

3. Money laundering (at least four cases). There were several reports of individuals from out of state bringing large amounts of small bills into the casino, feeding them into machines, obtaining TITO tickets, and cashing them out for larger- denomination bills. The specific nature of their criminal enterprises is unknown.

This report is important reading for state and local officials, particularly those in southeastern Massachusetts who are interested in hosting a casino in our communities.

Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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