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MA Gaming Commission To Study Relationship Between Casinos And Sex Trafficking

The MA Gaming Commission awarded a grant to the Safe Exit Initiative to study the relationship between MA casinos and sex trafficking.

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J.R. Duren Avatar
3 mins read

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) announced it has awarded a grant to the Safe Exit Initiative (SEI) for a two-year study into the relationship between Massachusetts casinos and sex trafficking.

SEI, a Massachusetts-based advocacy group that seeks to help people safely exit exploitation and the sex trade, will use the two-year study to explore the stories of survivors who were trafficked in casinos. The study is slated to launch this fall.

In a press release, SEI Co-Executive Director Audra Doody said that her organization is “excited” to partner with the MGC:

“The gaming industry is an established part of the Commonwealth and SEI is encouraged by the MGC’s commitment to exploring and responding to the impacts casinos have on local communities and how they can be significant players in combatting sex trafficking.”

Key takeaways

  • Safe Exit Initiative will conduct a two-year study involving quantitative analysis, and interviews and surveys of stakeholders.
  • Sex traffickers use casinos to run their businesses and find new clients.
  • Multiple people groups are vulnerable to sex trafficking, including indigenous populations and the LGBTQ+ communities.
  • If you suspect sex trafficking at a casino call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s 24/7 hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

Study will approach casinos and sex trafficking from multiple angles

SEI will take a multidisciplinary approach to studying the relationship between sex trafficking and casinos. That approach will include data analysis and insights collected through interviews and surveys of:

  • Law enforcement
  • Survivor-led organizations
  • Sex trafficking survivors
  • Gaming industry representatives

SEI Co-Executive Director Courtney Ross Escobar said SEI aims to come up with “solution-driven responses to commercial sexual exploitation.”

How do casinos play a role in sex trafficking?

Casinos have long been a prime location for sex traffickers to conduct business for several reasons. For example, some hotels allow cash payments and don’t require ID to make a booking.

That type of anonymous booking system provides traffickers a haven to exploit their workers and run their businesses.

The American Gaming Association launched a training program earlier this year that helps casino employees identify sex trafficking. When the AGA announced the program, it noted that there have been examples of hotel employees “acting as middlemen in setting up trafficked individuals with buyers.”

Populations in the US that are vulnerable to human trafficking include, according to the AGA’s guide to human trafficking:

  • Indigenous people
  • Alaska natives
  • Those who have been homeless
  • People facing financial difficulties
  • Those who are struggling with drug addiction
  • LGBTQ+ individuals
  • People who are undocumented immigrants

The AGA pointed out that traffickers lure victims to the US by making false promises, and then use hospitality locations like casinos to conduct their business.

Because sex trafficking involves multiple factors, it takes a multidisciplinary approach to confront the issue, SEI noted. “The sex trade is rooted in multiple factors of exploitation and each of these must be addressed in order to make change.

It follows that ending the sex trade will require the work of many, from  governments to constituents, from law enforcement to child welfare systems,  from private foundations to corporate sponsors and in our capacities as professionals and private individuals this is a movement that requires all of us to collectively agree that a culture that promotes and condones the buying of human beings is one that we reject.”

Safe Exit Initiative

How to report suspected sex trafficking in casinos

If you suspect human trafficking and sex trafficking is happening at a casino, the FBI recommends you call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC)’s 24/7 hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

You can also text the NHTRC at 233733 or submit a tip on the NHTRC website.

J.R. Duren Avatar
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J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

View all posts by J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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