A Barna survey of public opinion found that 61 percent of Americans believe that gambling is "morally acceptable," 1and a more recent Barna survey found that about 20 percent – or one in five – adults have gambled in the past week. 2However, many people are beginning to notice failed promises and the darker side of subsequent gambling addictions.
Despite the national trend toward embracing gambling as "gaming" and classifying it as harmless entertainment, this activity – and related technology – has never been more deceptive and addictive than it is today. Parents, senior citizens and young people need to be aware that nobody is exempt from gambling addiction, regardless of whether you have an "addictive" personality or not. And the underlying theme of "something for nothing" is no more real today than it was several hundred years ago.
As the early 1900's humorist Frank McKinney Hubbard stated, "The safest way to double your money is to fold it over once and put it in your pocket." This is even truer today with mechanized video predators that simulate "near wins" while taking more and more money from the pockets of unknowing victims or gamblers.
Voting citizens and legislators need to realize that gambling brings with it a host of social ills that spawn primarily from addiction. We call these adverse effects the "ABCs of Gambling." Gambling-related incidents of addiction, bankruptcy, crime, corruption, domestic abuse, destruction of marriages and families, and suicide attempts are higher than incidents related to any other addiction. Because gambling is so addictive, exploitive and damaging to so many facets of society, public policy that attempts to expand this industry is fundamentally and ethically flawed.
Dr. James Dobson emphasizes, "[Y]ou don't establish national policy on the basis of an individual [special interest group or their desires]. You look at what the impact is, what the greater good is for the culture, and the best thing for a culture is to have a rock solid foundation on which everything else is dependent. …Everything rests on the institution of the family ..." 3To the economist John Kenneth Galbraith, "People are the common denominator of progress." Economic progress can only be measured by its impact on individuals. 4
"It's very insidious," he said. "You don't have hangovers. Who was I hurting? I was hurting a lot of people, but I rationalized I wasn't." – Addicted Florida gambler 5
''I've had people gamble through fires and floods and armed robberies … It's not that they don't care. It's that they are not aware of their surroundings. Gambling is a very consuming act. Nothing else exists." – Rocky Mountain News 6
Availability and accessibility of gambling, combined with highly addictive video slot machines, act as the perfect storm for addiction. Add to land-based casinos and gambling boats more than 255 million wireless cell phone subscribers – or approximately 84 percent of the U.S. population 7– and "remote" or wireless gambling is becoming the latest threat. Particularly concerning is the fact that more than one-third, or 36 percent, of 11- to 14-year-olds have their own cell phones. 8Analysts predict that mobile, wireless online gambling will take $3 billion out of the U.S. alone by 2009.
The 50-2x Rule: Within 50 miles of a casino, the prevalence of problem and pathological gamblers roughly doubles. 9
In Oregon, the number of Gamblers Anonymous chapters increased from three to more than 30 within five years of the introduction of video poker machines. Gambling addiction experts contend video poker is among the most addictive forms of gambling. 10
Two gambling behavior surveys conducted in Minnesota showed a substantial increase in the number of compulsive gamblers coincidental with the expansion of gambling in that state. 11
The list goes on, and most any location with new or expanded gambling can anticipate increased rates of gambling addiction.
SMR Research Corporation called gambling "the single fastest-growing driver of bankruptcy." 12
Professors from Georgetown University and Purdue University performed research on the link between gambling and bankruptcy. They concluded, "We found statistically significant increases at the county level in the number of personal bankruptcy filings due to the introduction of casino gambling." 13
Gambling-related bankruptcies in metro Detroit increased by as much as 40-fold within a year and a half of the opening of Casino Windsor, just across the Detroit River, according to local bankruptcy attorneys. 14
The U.S. Department of Justice and The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) found a correlation between high levels of criminal activity related to pathological gambling. The percentage of pathological gamblers among arrestees was three to five times higher than the general population, and compulsive or pathological gamblers were significantly more likely to have sold drugs than arrestees who fit the other gambling types. 15
In a report titled Casinos, Crime and Community Costs (2004), university researchers found that a casino's effect on crime is low shortly after it opens and grows over time. 16Casino counties had notably higher crime rates than non-casino counties, and, for most offenses, the statistically significant differences tend to appear two or three years after casinos open. 17
Examining Police Records to Assess Gambling Impacts: A Study of Gambling Related Crime in the City of Edmonton is a telling report out of Canada that emphasizes the link between gambling, illegal gambling and crime. It also observes that legalized gambling does not reduce illegal gambling. 18
In a survey of nearly 400 Gamblers Anonymous members, 28 percent reported being either separated or divorced as a direct result of their gambling problems. 19In the National Gambling Impact Study, 20the lifetime divorce rates for problem and pathological gamblers were 39.5 percent and 53.5 percent, respectively; the rate in non-gamblers was 18.2 percent.
In Indiana, a review of the state's gaming commission records revealed that 72 children were found abandoned on casino premises during a 14-month period. 21
Every pathological gambler affects between 10 and 17 individuals including family members and co-workers. 22
A University of Nebraska Medical Center study concluded that problem gambling is as much a risk factor for domestic violence as alcohol abuse.
Domestic violence murders in at least 11 states have been traced to gambling problems since 1996. 24
Three years after casinos were legalized in Deadwood, South Dakota, felony crimes increased by 40 percent, child abuse increased 42 percent, and domestic violence and assaults rose 80 percent. 25
"Suicide attempts among pathological gamblers are higher than for any of the addictions and second only to suicide attempt rates among individuals with major affective disorders, schizophrenia and a few major hereditary disorders," -Dr. Rachel A. Volberg, President of Gemini Research, Ltd. 26
One in five pathological gamblers will attempt suicide, 27while one in ten of their spouses will attempt suicide. 28
In Gulfport, Mississippi, suicides increased by 213 percent (from 24 to 75) in the first two years after casinos arrived. In neighboring Biloxi, suicide attempts jumped by 1,000 percent (from 6 to 66) in the first year alone. 29A survey of nearly 200 Illinois Gamblers Anonymous members found that 66 percent had contemplated suicide, 79 percent had wanted to die, 45 percent had a definite plan to kill themselves, and 16 percent had actually attempted suicide. 30