BOSTON, Mass. (State House News Service)–The introduction of casinos to Massachusetts has led to tens of thousands of impaired driving incidents here each year, but the increase is generally in line with what would be expected from having three new venues serving alcohol to thousands of people every day, a crime analyst told the Gaming Commission on Thursday.

Gaming Commission consultant and crime analyst Christopher Bruce told regulators in a report and presentation that estimating exact numbers is difficult due to data and research limitations, but that the “sheer numbers of patrons that the casinos receive likely translates into tens of thousands of impaired driving ‘trips’ per year, which in turn results in both an increased number of arrests and an increased number of collisions.” “A certain number of additional drunk driving trips is essentially inevitable when you have facilities that serve alcohol,” Bruce told the Gaming Commission. “And unless we observe a number of crashes that is significantly above what we would estimate the total to be based on the best research, then we can say the casinos are probably operating optimally and deterring as much drunk driving as they reasonably can.”

He said the Gaming Commission should continue to monitor Plainridge Park Casino, MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor to ensure that the gaming centers are taking the necessary steps to prevent impaired driving, “but I don’t see any evidence or haven’t heard any evidence that they’re not complying so far.”

Commissioners discussed the possibility of a refreshed public awareness campaign highlighting the dangers of driving while impaired and Bruce suggested that law enforcement could step up traffic enforcement on routes leading to and from casinos as a deterrent.

The report from Bruce struck Commissioner Brad Hill as relatively good news. “It was a big topic of conversation when we passed the bill and I think I was happy to hear, if I’m hearing correctly, that it isn’t as bad as maybe some had envisioned, considering the size of the operations and the amount of people that are going in,” Hill, a former state representative, said. He added, “So, as a former voter on this bill, I’m happy to see that the numbers aren’t as high as I thought they might be. But it certainly is taking a lot of work from a lot of people to make sure that those numbers remain low.”