Exposing the Dark Side of Gambling Addiction

LEGALIZED GAMBLING AND CRIME: HOW IT AFFECTS YOU

By Annie Mueller
For Casino Watch Foundation

America's population is just at 300 million (1). About 1%, or 3 million Americans, are pathological gamblers. Another 2 – 3%, or 6 – 9 million, are problem gamblers (2). Let's be conservative with our numbers, and say that about 9 million Americans have a problem with gambling. They gamble too often, and they gamble too much. They gamble away money that they can't afford to lose. When their money is gone, they gamble someone else's.

Numbers range. One group study showed that 50% of the 99 gamblers in a treatment group had committed crimes to support their habit (3). Other studies gave numbers from 57% to 62% ( 4). Remaining conservative, then, in our estimate, let's say that maybe 30% of those 9 million Americans will commit a crime to support their gambling habit.

That's 2.7 million Americans who might write you a bad check, or break into your home, or embezzle from your business, or grab your purse off the restaurant table when you look away, or drive away in your car. 2.7 million Americans are ready to rob you so they can march into a casino and gamble that money away. And next week, they will probably need more. 

Of course, the idea of a problem gambler pawning your jewelry is distasteful because it's yours. Why should you have to pay for anyone else's gambling habit? Should your property fund his problem? For that matter, should your taxes fund his stay in jail, his psychiatric treatment, his divorce and bankruptcy court proceedings? Should the city levy more from you to fund the additional officers needed to deal with the prostitution and organized crime attracted by casinos? Should your taxes pay the salary of a Senator whose political decisions may be influenced by the thousands of dollars in campaign contributions "donated" by casino representatives?

The answer to all these questions is the same: no. The reality remains, however, that you are losing money as legalized gambling increases, because gambling towns attract those who are already criminal and provide powerful motivation for others to become the same. If gambling is only another form of entertainment, then it is a dangerous amusement and one that will affect you whether you ever step into a casino or not. It will impact your quality of life, your safety, your peace of mind, and your bank account.

In this series, we will examine the ways legalized gambling and consequent crime can change your life. The question we need to answer is this: do the benefits of this entertainment – legalized gambling – justify the costs it forces upon us?

1. U.S. And World Population Clocks, U.S. Census Bureau. Accessed 14 November 2006. http://www.census.gov/main/www/popclock.html
2. Grinols, Earl L. “Policy Forum: Casino gambling causes crime.” University of Illinois, Institute of Government and Public Affairs. Volume 12, Number 2, 2000. Accessed 14 November 2006. http://72.14.203.104/search?q=cache:m1xo9hC_zZIJ:www.igpa.uiuc.edu/publications/PolicyForum/PF13-2_CasinosCrime.pdf
3. Schwer, R. Keith et al. “Beyond the Limits of Recreation: Social Costs of Gambling in Southern Nevada.” National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling. 1 February 2003. Accessed 14 November 2006. http://www.ncalg.org/Library/Studies%20and%20White%20Papers/Crime%20and%20Corruption/s._nevada_beyond_limits.pdf
4. Grinols, Earl L. “Policy Forum: Casino gambling causes crime.” University of Illinois, Institute of Government and Public Affairs. Volume 12, Number 2, 2000. Accessed 14 November 2006. http://72.14.203.104/search?q=cache:m1xo9hC_zZIJ:www.igpa.uiuc.edu/publications/PolicyForum/PF13-2_CasinosCrime.pdf