Focus on the Family

Cause for Concern (Gambling)

Voting citizens and legislators need to realize that gambling brings with it a host of social ills that spawn primarily from addiction.

by Focus on the Family Issue Analysts

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

Addiction

"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.

Bankruptcy

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

Crime

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

Destruction of Families

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

Domestic Violence

A University of Nebraska Medical Center study concluded that problem gambling is as much a risk factor for domestic violence as alcohol abuse.

23

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

"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


1George Barna, "Morality Continues to Decay," Barna Research Press Release online, press release, 3 November 2003, http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/5-barna-update/129-morality-continues-to-decay (21 November 2003).
2George Barna, "Young Adults and Liberals Struggle with Morality," Barna Research online, The Barna Update, 25 August 2008, http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/16-teensnext-gen/25-young-adults-and-liberals-struggle-with-morality (25 August 2008).
3Larry King Live transcript, "Interview With Dr. James Dobson," CNN, aired 22 November 2006.
4National Gambling Impact Study Commission Final Report, June 1999, p. 7-1, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/ngisc/reports/7.pdf (25 August 2008).
5Steve Heisler, "People addicted to gambling seeking help in East Manatee," Herald Tribune online (Florida), 21 August 2003, (4 December 2003).
6"When gambling hurts: Nearness of casinos just makes it easier for compulsive bettors," Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO),14 June 1994, LIFESTYLE/SPOTLIGHT; Ed. F; p. 3D.
7"U.S. Wireless Quick Facts and Figures," CTIA The Wireless Association, December 2007, http://www.ctia.org/advocacy/research/index.cfm/AID/10323 (26 August 2008).
8"Are our children overindulged?" The Cincinnati Enquirer online (citing research from "Packaged Facts" on tweens and young teens, 2005), 25 September 2005, http://news.cincinnati.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050925/EDIT03/509250307/1023/EDIT (26 August 2008).
9NORC, Report to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, “Gambling Impact and Behavior Survey - Highlights,” National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, 1 April 1999, PDF File, p. ix., http://www.norc.org/NR/rdonlyres/5C44C702-3598-453A-8CCD-AFB05ACC8822/0/GIBSFinalReportApril1999.pdf (8 August 2008).
10Jeff Mapes, "Gambling on Addiction," The Oregonian, March 9, 1997, p. 1A.
11Michael O. Emerson, J. Clark Laundergan, James M. Schaefer, "Adult Survey of Minnesota Problem Gambling Behavior; A Needs Assessment: Changes 1990 to 1994," Center for Addiction Studies, University of Minnesota, Duluth, September 1994.
12SMR Research Corporation, "The Personal Bankruptcy Crisis, 1997: Demographics, Causes, Implications, & Solutions," Hackettstown, N.J., 1997, pp.116-130.
13John M. Barron, Michael E. Staten, Stephanie M. Wilshusen, "The Impact of Casino Gambling on Personal Bankruptcy Filing Rates," McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University, 18 August 2000
14Ron French, "Gambling Bankruptcies Soar," Detroit News, December 3, 1995, p. A1.
15Richard C. McCorkle, "Gambling and Crime Among Arrestees: Exploring the Link," United States Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, July 2004, http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/203197.pdf (22 August 2007).
16EL Grinols, DB Mustard, CH Dilley, "Casinos, Crime, and Community Costs," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, 2004. (25 August 2008).
17EL Grinols, et al., 2004, p. 23.
18Garry Smith, Ph.D. Harold Wynne, Ph.D., Tim Hartnagel, Ph.D., "Examining Police Records to Assess Gambling Impacts: A Study of Gambling Related Crime in the City of Edmonton," January 2003, http://www.llbc.leg.bc.ca/public/pubdocs/docs/361120/gambling_and_crime.pdf (26 August 2008).
19National Gambling Impact Study Commission (NGISC) Final Report, June 1999, p. 7-27, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/ngisc/reports/7.pdf (26 August 2008).
20National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago (NORC). Gambling Impact and Behavior Study: Report to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission. Chicago, Ill: 1999.
21Grace Schneider, "Children Being Left Alone While Parents Gamble," [Louisville] Courier-Journal, July 18, 2000.
22Henry R. Lesieur and Robert L. Custer, "Pathological Gambling: Roots, Phases, and Treatment," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 474, Gambling: Views from the Social Sciences, July 1984, pp. 146-156
23John Jejkal, "U. Nebraska Doctor Contributes to National Domestic Violence Study," Daily Nebraskan, January 13, 2000.
24Petula Dvorak, "Marrero Man Kills Wife, Self," New Orleans Times-Picayune, May 8, 1998, p. A1; Benita Williams, "Woman Sentenced in Slaying," Kansas City Star, December 21, 1999, p. B2; Dave Racher, "Landscaper Held in Wife's Slaying," Philadelphia Daily News, July 11, 1998; Hector Castro, "Savage Killing of 3 Still a Mystery," (Tacoma, Wash.) News Tribune, June 14, 1999, p. A1; Carson Walker, "Cepek Killed in Her Apartment, Police Believe," (Sioux Falls, S.D.) Argus Leader, January 30, 1997; Mark Horvit, "Anecdotes Link Video Poker with Crimes," Charlotte Observer, October 3, 1999; Jack Gruber, "Gambling Help Comes Slowly," Detroit News, October 3, 1997, p. C1; Ed Hayward, "Gambling Habit Eyed As Motive," Boston Herald, October 21, 1997, p. 7; W. Melillo and B. Masters, "Lone Survivor of Father's Shooting Dies," Washington Post, August 6, 1998, p. A1; Associated Press, "Woman Blames Gambling Debts in Double Murder," September 10, 1999; "Ohio Man Guilty of Bomb Murder," Associated Press, February 5, 1997.
25Professor John Warren Kindt, "The Economic impacts of Legalized Gambling Activities," Drake Law Review, Drake University, Des Moines, IA, Vol. 43, 1994.
26Eric Newhouse, "Problem players a growing trend, experts contend," Great Falls Tribune (Great Falls, MT), 31 July 2002, p. 1A.
27National Council on Problem Gambling, Inc., “The Need for a National Policy on Problem and Pathological Gambling in America,” 1 November 1993, p. 7.
28Robert Custer and Harry Milt, "When Luck Runs Out: Help for Compulsive Gamblers and Their Families," (New York: Facts on File, 1985), pp. 231, 145.
29Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr., “The House Never Loses and Maryland Cannot Win: Why Casino Gaming Is a Bad Idea,” Report on the Impact of Casino Gaming on Crime, 16 October 1995, p. 7.
30Henry R. Lesieur and Christopher W. Anderson, “Results of a 1995 Survey of Gamblers Anonymous Members in Illinois (N=184),” Illinois Council on Problem and Compulsive Gambling, 14 June 1995.