Exposing the Dark Side of Gambling Addiction


By Annie Mueller
For Casino Watch Foundation

Casinos offer an opportunity far too tempting for most criminals or would-be criminals to resist. The gambling industry operates on the hope of "something for nothing," which devalues the traditional American ethic of working hard and succeeding because of that hard work. The appeal created seems irresistible to anyone who wants an easy way out, whether legally (through winnings) or illegally (through fraud, money laundering, drugs, prostitution, theft, and cheating). The basic pull is the same: instead of working hard and making enough, I want to work not at all or as little as possible and make far more than enough.

The problem with this scenario is that the "far more than enough" has to come from somewhere. In our traditional work-wage scenario, the time of the worker is exchanged for his wages. The employer receives the work, the worker receives the salary, and the exchange is, one hopes, equitable.

In the casino get-rich-quick scenario, the exchange is entirely different. One person, the "winner," profits enormously from the losses of all the other players, in the legal scenario. The losers aren't happy, but that was the risk they took by playing. The exchange is random, not equitable.

The more disturbing scenario, however, is the illegal one, in which a criminal gains a huge profit from illicit dealings: selling drugs, selling sex, laundering money, cheating players, cheating the casino, or stealing from winners. The exchange is simple: the criminal gains, and anyone else involved loses. The problem is that only the criminal "agreed" to take the risk; the others were given no choice.

Even in the legal exchanges which take place in casinos, it isn't just the players, who agreed to take the risk, who must bear the burden of loss. All tax-payers bear the burden; all citizens of the surrounding area bear the burden; all civil servants, law enforcement officers, government officials bear the burden. You and I bear the burden whether or not we've ever stepped into the casino.

The criminal scenario is one which, publicly, casinos strive to separate from their official operations. It isn't good business to be publicly associated with crime lords, prostitute rings, and money laundering. But the facts never quite line up with the media image presented. Casinos, either actively or passively, encourage crime in three areas: through connections with known crime families and drug rings, through repeated evasion of federal and state regulations, and through offenses committed by their employees.

The casino connection with known crime families simply cannot be reasonably contested. The Grand Victoria Casino in Illinois was fined for doing business with four mob-tied companies; Caesar's in Atlantic City had to say goodbye to investment partners due to their mob connections; Club 2K and Venetian in Las Vegas were investigated for involvement with drug trafficking run by the Gambino crime family; the Tropicana in Kansas City was target of an investigation of "skimming," resulting in jail-time for several mafia members; Asian-American organized crime rings were linked with two Massachusetts Indian casinos; and these are just a few of the cases publicly known. (all from casinowatch.org)

As with any criminal activity, what we know always pales in comparison to what we do not know. Despite investigations into illegal activities and bans of various mafia members from entering casinos, the casino-crime family relationships are alive, well, and very profitable. Crime families use casinos as fronts for money laundering, skimming, drug sales, and prostitution rings. Casinos polish their front-glass, squeaky-clean image with one hand and accept their portion of the profits with the other. Is anybody really fooled anymore?

1. Casino Watch website. “The Mob in Casinos.” Compiled by GRIEF (Gambling Research Information & Education Foundation); Pat Andrews: Chairman; April, 2003. Accessed 31 July 2007.