Focus on the Family


by Focus on the Family Issue Analysts

Gambling is a vice industry built on deception and fed by the intentional exploitation of human weakness for the sole purpose of monetary gain.

Today's video gambling machines (modern slots) are designed to be the most addictive form of gambling ever developed. Addiction counselors and psychologists are calling video gambling the "crack cocaine" of the gambling industry. People are becoming addicted to these machines within a year. 1

Increased accessibility and availability of gambling throughout our nation is also to blame for the increase in problem and pathological addictions. 2Nearly a decade ago, a federal research committee estimated that there were about 15 million problem and pathological gamblers in the U.S. alone – 7.9 million were underage children 3

Gambling Defined

Gambling is defined by a combination of three components:

  1. Consideration – something of value placed as a "wager" or bet
  2. Chance – the element of risk
  3. Award – a prize, usually money or an item of value

Gambling in the United States

Gambling has been legalized in 48 states, with the two exceptions being Hawaii and Utah. Approximately 33 percent of the American population does not gamble. Another 46 percent gambles at casinos, while the remaining 21 percent choose other forms of gambling.

About 50-60 percent of the population can be classified as "light bettors." Another 10 percent represent "heavy bettors," 4who account for nearly 61 percent of all table and slot casino revenues. 5Heavy gamblers tend to exhibit more problem and pathological gambling addictions.

In 2006, with all forms of gambling combined, nearly $91 billion was taken in the form of gamblers' losses or in gross annual revenues for gambling operations; this number does not include $6 billion sent out of the U.S. in illegal Internet gambling. 6

The five largest gambling sectors include:

According to the American Gaming Association's 2008 State of the States report, about 54.5 million people visited U.S. casinos in 2007 (25 percent of the adult population, 21 years of age and older). 8

Gambling Saturation (2007 Data)

Sector Operations States Gambler Losses
Commercial Casinos 9 467 12 $34.1 Billion
Tribal/Indian Casinos 10 425 28 $26.5 Billion (230 gambling tribes)
Lottery (State-owned) 11 42/DC 42/DC $17.1 Billion ($57.4 billion sales)
Race Track Casinos 12 41 11 $5.3 Billion


Gambling Trends

Poker participation and its short growth phase, based largely on the formation of the World Poker Tour and televised poker tournaments, peaked in 2004 and 2005. But it appeared to experience a 33 percent decline in popularity in 2007 (from the peak years) with only 13 percent of adults gambling on poker during the year.

Race track casino operations – hybrids of casinos, lotteries and pari-mutuel facilities – are becoming increasingly popular with states even though the National Gambling Impact Study Commission advised against allowing casino-style gambling at race tracks:

Recommendation 3.12 - "The Commission recommends that states should refuse to allow the introduction of casino-style gambling into pari-mutuel facilities for the primary purpose of saving a pari-mutuel facility that the market has determined no longer serves the community or for the purpose of competing with other forms of gambling." 13

Racino States with video lottery terminals include Delaware, NewYork, Rhode Island and West Virginia 14Racino States with casino slots include Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.

1R.B. Breen and M. Zimmerman, "Rapid onset of pathological gambling in machine gamblers," Journal of Gambling Studies, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2002.
2Rachel A. Volberg, "Prevalence Studies of Problem Gambling in the United States," Journal of Gambling Studies, Summer 1996, p. 123.
3National Gambling Impact Study Commission Final Report, June 1999, p. 4-1, (21 August 2008).
4Earl L. Grinols, Gambling In America: Costs And Benefits, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 45-46.
5Rachel A. Volberg, et al., "Assessing Self-Reported Expenditures on Gambling," Managerial and Decision Economics, Vol. 22, 1-3, (January – May), Table 2, p. 82.
6"2006 Gross Gambling Revenues by Industry and Change from 2005 US," International Gaming & Wagering Business (IGWB) online, 2008, data compiled by Christiansen Capital Advisors, LLC, (5 February 2008).
7International Gaming & Wagering Business (IGWB) online, 2008.
8"2008 State of the States: The AGA Survey of Casino Entertainment," American Gaming Association online, 2008, (21 August 2008).
9American Gaming Association online, 2008, pp. 3.
10Alan Meister, Ph.D., "2008-2009 Indian Gaming Industry Report," Casino City Press, Analysis Group, Inc., p..2.
11"Member Lotteries: Sales and Profits," North American Association of State & Provincial Lotteries (NASPL) online, 2008, (21 August 2008).
12American Gaming Association online, 2008, pp. 2, 4, 24.
13National Gambling Impact Study Commission Final Report, June 1999, p. 3-18, (21 August 2008).
14American Gaming Association online, 2008, Notes, p. ii.

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


"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

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.


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

1George Barna, "Morality Continues to Decay," Barna Research Press Release online, press release, 3 November 2003, (21 November 2003).
2George Barna, "Young Adults and Liberals Struggle with Morality," Barna Research online, The Barna Update, 25 August 2008, (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, (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, (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, (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., (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, (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, (26 August 2008).
19National Gambling Impact Study Commission (NGISC) Final Report, June 1999, p. 7-27, (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.

Our Position (Gambling)

Focus on the Family opposes all forms of legalized gambling for both moral and pragmatic reasons. We believe the net societal effect of our government's embrace of gambling has been disastrous.

by Focus on the Family Issue Analysts

Focus on the Family opposes all forms of legalized gambling for both moral and pragmatic reasons. We believe the net societal effect of our government's embrace of gambling has been disastrous.

Gambling is driven by and subsists on greed. For this reason, the activity is morally bankrupt from its very foundation. Gambling is also an activity which exploits the vulnerable – the young, the old and those susceptible to addictive behaviors. Further, gambling entices the financially disadvantaged classes with the unrealistic hope of escape from poverty through instant riches – thus, ultimately worsening the plight of our poorest citizens. Also, gambling undermines the work ethic. It is based on the premise of "something for nothing," a concept that sanctions idleness rather than industriousness, slothfulness instead of initiative.

Read Focus on the Family's entire position statement on Gambling.

Biblical Opposition

As a ministry, Focus on the Family primarily exists to defend and strengthen families. Gambling and gambling addiction serve to erode the very foundation of strong, healthy families.

The Bible is God's prescription for our continued existence, health, prosperity, happiness and salvation. To live by biblical principles is to live in obedience and submission to the lordship of Jesus Christ and His Word.

Undoubtedly, we all desire to live rewarding and significant lives. This can be fully achieved, but only if we share God's eternal perspective in this life. God's principles are challenged daily as we walk along the exciting and difficult road of life. In Matthew 10:16, Jesus says "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves."

The term "gambling" will not likely be found in a concordance, but the principles that apply to gambling, gambling addiction and the subsequent consequences are readily found throughout the Bible.

The nature of gambling can be described as follows: Gambling is the art and science of intentional deception that feeds on the exploitation of human weakness for the sole purpose of monetary gain. Basically, gambling deceives people in order to exploit them and take their money. What a great business to have in your backyard – or not! Perhaps this is why a survey from the Center for Economic and Civic Opinion at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell found the three most unpopular types of development in our nation to be landfills, power plants and, you guessed it, casinos!1

Consider, for example, the "fruit" of gambling. Matthew 7:15-20 discusses discerning good from bad, false promises and false prophets, and it uses a fruit tree to illustrate:

What "fruit" does gambling produce? Revenue and jobs will be touted by the gambling proponents, but remember the source of this "revenue": deception and exploitation of people. And think about the jobs: deceiving people to take their money, serving alcohol to "lessen" gamblers' inhibitions, scrubbing urine and feces off seats of addicted gamblers, bouncing angry gamblers, catching swindlers. The list of "pristine" jobs goes on.

The "ABCs of Gambling" illustrate a few of the "fruits" that gambling and gambling addiction produce: addiction, bankruptcy, crime, corruption, destruction of families, destruction of marriages, domestic violence, economic destabilization and suicide. Gambling sounds more like a prickly, noxious thistle than a fruit-bearing tree.

The Bible talks about "uneven scales" and practicing deception. This is the "skill" that most proficient gamblers work to develop, and it's that same trickery and dishonesty that casinos use to exploit people and take their money.

Matthew 25:14-30 is the parable of the talents, where stewardship of skills and money is discussed. A number of other parables are scattered throughout the Bible that also discuss good stewardship of resources, skills, effort and finances.

1Jennifer S. Forsyth, Michael Corkery and Christine Haughney, "Plots & Ploys: Stop Right There," Wall Street Journal, 4 January 2006.

Talking Points (Gambling)

by Focus on the Family Issue Analysts






Education Funding 

Racetrack Casinos (Racinos)


1John Warren Kindt, statement before a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business, 21 September 1994.

Next Steps and Related Information

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