Researchers to Survey Senior Citizens to Determine Impact of Casinos

  • State-funded survey in Massachusetts aims to determine if senior citizens suffer from gambling addiction
  • Researchers want to find out if medical or mental health could put older people at a higher risk of gambling problems
  • Senior citizens may find it harder to recover financially from a gambling loss compared to younger generations
Senior citizens enjoy attending casinos, but can they develop gambling-related issues?
Senior citizens enjoy attending casinos, but can they develop gambling-related issues?

Gambling and senior citizens

A state-funded survey in Massachusetts is seeking to determine the impact of casinos on senior citizens who often go to these venues.

Researchers from the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston will be working with the nonprofit Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling, reports the Boston Globe. The two teams will have a $40,000 (£30,600) seed grant to survey older people in 15 cities and towns surrounding the Plainridge Park Casino.

Established in June 2015, the Plainridge Park Casino has 1,500 slot and blackjack machines; however, the establishment is seeking to add extra blackjack tables and craps, a dice game.

Caitlin Coyle, a University of Massachusetts Amherst Boston research fellow and co-director of the study, said:

We want to understand the impact of these casinos on the behavior and lifestyle of older residents. We know there are risks posed by problem gambling. This is an opportunity for us to ask questions and get answers.”

Following the Expanded Gaming Act, commercial casinos in Massachusetts were legalized in 2011. Since then the industry has continued to grow with the state’s first resort casino opening its doors in 2018.

Yet, with senior citizens often making up a significant number of customers at casinos – according to the Boston Globe – it’s understandable that there is a concern they could become vulnerable to them.

Additionally, the survey’s findings could have implications on the wider casino industry within Massachusetts. Wynn Resort Casinos, for instance, is gearing up to run a resort casino in Everett, MA in the coming weeks. This is the same casino that was fined $35m (£27m) by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission for concealing allegations of sexual misconduct against Steve Wynn, former CEO and company founder.

Focusing on senior citizens

As part of the survey, researchers are keen to find out how medical or mental health problems could put older people at a higher risk of gambling addiction.

According to Marlene Warner, executive director of the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling, senior citizens with depleted savings face serious consequences compared with younger generations.

“When seniors have a gambling problem and they lose money, they’re not as able to recover,” she said. “It’s harder for many of them to go out and find new sources of income.”

Interestingly, a recent report highlighted that over-55s are regularly placing bets online, with rising figures twice that of millennials. The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) found that 2.2 million over-55s are gambling online, an increase of one million since 2016.

Data from the beginning of May suggests that smartphones are contributing to this rise and that over-55s are more likely to use a smartphone than a PC or laptop to place a bet.

For many people at the Plainridge Park Casino, gambling may be a way to break free from isolation and loneliness, and is less about actually gambling more than they have. For example, they may take in $20 (£15) and only spend that money on slots before going home again.

The survey hopes to find the answers to these scenarios and to better reach out to those who have a gambling addiction to give them the help they need.