A community-based research approach to examine the impacts of casino gambling in Massachusetts

Type: Poster Presentation
Date: November 2022


Jenna T. Sirkin, Petry S. Ubri, Jared Sawyer, Christina Drymon, Meghan Woo, Sofia Ladner, Danielle Chun, Sarah Jalbert. “A community-based research approach to examine the impacts of casino gambling in Massachusetts”. Presented at the 2022 APHA Annual Meeting and Expo (poster). Boston, MA.


Gambling research has historically been disconnected from the experiences of communities surrounding casinos, resulting in limited engagement and learning from those communities most directly impacted. Casino gambling became legal in Massachusetts in November 2011, and the third casino in Massachusetts, the Encore Boston Harbor Casino (Encore), opened in June 2019 in Everett, a diverse industrial suburb north of Boston. We developed a community-engaged research approach to examine the perceived social, economic, and public health impacts of the introduction of casino gambling on Encore’s surrounding communities.

Approach and Framework
Community-engaged research emphasizes joining with community members as equal partners throughout the full cycle of the research process. Our guiding frameworks include community-centered principles adapted from work on patient-centered outcomes research and community-based participatory research methods. We value reciprocal relationships (e.g., collaborative decision-making), partnerships (e.g., fairly valuing community members’ time, commitment to cultural competence), co-learning (e.g., incorporating person-centeredness into the research process), transparency, honesty, and trust. We are implementing the following study components from June 2021-2022:
– Engage a diverse and interdisciplinary Community Advisory Board (CAB) that meets quarterly to inform the study design, data collection approach, analysis, and dissemination.
– Train community members to recruit participants and conduct interviews within Encore’s surrounding communities.
– Engage CAB and community interviewers as partners in the data analysis and discussion of interview and focus group themes through a “data party,” a meeting with the presentation of initial results to garner reactions and input, to inform study findings.
– Collaborate with the CAB and community interviewers to disseminate findings back to Encore’s surrounding communities.

Conclusions and Recommendations for Practice
Through innovative partnerships, we have engaged community members in the design, implementation, and analysis of our study, capturing nuanced lived experiences and perspectives. Our engagement with community members’ perspectives across the study phases ensures that we engage currently unheard and critical voices to understand and interpret the benefits, as well as the unintended and disproportionate impacts, of Encore on the community. We plan to share findings with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and Encore’s surrounding communities.
Our approach and study findings may be used to inform future policy and process for meaningful community feedback, particularly contributing to how local policies and interventions should be enacted to address the social, economic, and public health impacts of the introduction of casino gambling on the surrounding communities.