Exposing the Dark Side of Gambling Addiction


Do the benefits of this entertainment justify the costs it forces upon us?

By Annie Mueller
For Casino Watch Foundation

Gambling addiction starts quietly. After all, 80% of the American population gambles; going to a casino isn't a stand-out event. Lots of people play blackjack or roulette, or spend time at a poker table or a slot machine. What's the big deal?

Say hello to “Denise.” Denise is 47 and works at a law firm in her small town. Her youngest child just started college; she and her husband finally have time to themselves. They visit the casino, just a half hour's drive from their home, and try everything. Danice really enjoys the slot machines. She even wins a hundred dollars!

The next week, Denise takes an afternoon off. Her dentist appointment ends at 3:00, and she remembers the casino. That was a good time. She gets some cash. Maybe she'll win another hundred and take her husband out for a steak tonight.

She loses three hundred. She feels bad, but they can afford it. They can come this weekend and she'll win it back. She doesn't mention it to her husband. It's no big deal.

Six months later, she is leaving work early two or three days a week to hit the casino. Her employers are frustrated. Her husband doesn't know what is happening. She's gambled away half of their retirement savings. Denise knows she can win that back and more, probably tonight. Just one more chance, one more night, one more pull of the handle.

Three years later, Denise is sentenced to three years for embezzling $243,000 from her employers. Her husband watches, divorce papers in hand. He hasn't decided what to do. He'll be working a long time: she used the savings and ruined their credit. Their three sons sit beside him, watching as their Mom, handcuffed and crying, is led from the courtroom.
What's the big deal?

• Gambling is the second most frequently identified motivation of convicted serious fraud offenders.1
• The incarceration rate of those who had been pathological gamblers at any point in their lifetime is triple the incarceration rate of a non-gambling group (21.4% versus 7%).2
• No other addiction poses the kind of financial risk as compulsive gambling.3
• Studies have shown that the crime rate among compulsive gamblers is 50-67%. In Florida, problem and compulsive gamblers are almost four times as likely to be arrested than non- problem gamblers.4
• In one study, 62% of gamblers in treatment had committed illegal acts because of their gambling.5
• In a survey of nearly 400 Gambler's Anonymous members, 57% admitted stealing to finance their gambling; on average they stole $135,000. Total theft was over $30 million.6

1. “Gambling motivated crime.” Australian Institute of Criminology, Australian Government. 25 June 2003. Accessed 5 December 2006.
2. Bechtold, Carl G. “Tide of Gambling Yields Backwash of Addiction.” National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling. 21 August 2004. Accessed 5 December 2006.
http://www.ncalg.org/Library/Studies%20and%20White%20Papers/Addiction%20and%20Health/Addiction%20Wh ite%20Paper.pdf
3. “Inside Snapshot: Gambling Among College Students.” Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, Inc. 2004. Accessed 5 December 2006.
4. Ibid.
5. Grinols, Earl L. “Casino gambling causes crime.” Institute of Government and Public Affairs, University of Illinois. Scott Koeneman, ed. Vol. 13, No. 2, 2000. Accessed 8 December 2006. 2_CasinosCrime.pdf
6. Ibid. Quoting the testimony of Henry Lesieur, Institute of Problem Gambling, before the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, Atlantic City, New Jersey, 22 January 1998.