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Faculty & Staff Honors

UMass Amherst Team Receives Grant to Study Problem Gambling

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission announced that it is partnering with a team led by research associate professor of epidemiology Dr. Rachel Volberg from the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences to conduct a first-of-its-kind, multi-year cohort study to examine how gambling problems develop over time and thus illuminate the causes of problem gambling. The ground-breaking research project, known as the Massachusetts Gambling Impact Cohort (MAGIC) study, will have significant value as it will highlight factors critical to developing strategic and data-driven problem gambling prevention, treatment and recovery support services in Massachusetts.

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[Photo: Dr. Rachel Volberg]

According to Mr. Steve Crosby, chairman of the commission, “MAGIC promises to be a landmark study, providing new and much needed information about incidence rates and the course of problem gambling in Massachusetts. MAGIC will yield important and unique information leading to treatment and prevention initiatives that are specifically tailored to the needs of the people of the Commonwealth.”

Dr. Volberg said, “This is the first major cohort study of gambling etiology to be carried out in the United States and we are tremendously excited about the synergies that will be possible with the Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts (SEIGMA) study that is already underway at UMass Amherst. We anticipate learning a great deal about how gambling problems among Massachusetts residents develop, progress and remit—information that will assist the Gaming Commission and the Department of Public Health in crafting the right mix of programs and services to effectively prevent and mitigate gambling harm in the Commonwealth.”

The statutorily mandated research agenda calls for establishing a baseline estimate of problem gambling prior to the opening of new gaming facilities. Researchers will focus on assessing:

A procurement management team that evaluated the proposals to the commission unanimously selected the UMass Amherst proposal for its potential to make a significant contribution to Massachusetts by providing critical information to target resources for problem gambling prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery support. The proposal was also selected because of its methodological strength, cost-effectiveness, and the demonstrated excellence of its research team. In addition to its experience implementing longitudinal cohort studies in other jurisdictions, the UMass Amherst research team has been working with the commission for the past two years to carry out the SEIGMA study, which uses different methods to evaluate the social and economic impacts of gambling expansion in Massachusetts.

Each study will produce considerable evidence relevant to the other study’s focus.

The cost of the first year of the study is estimated at $963,000 and future years are projected to operate at the same level. The study will launch later this month, with its first wave of data collection taking place in January. Following that, data will be collected annually.