Top 10 gambling facts

Gambling has become a high profile and socially acceptable activity that cuts across all age, economic, cultural and educational groups. But what is the real story behind the economic benefits and social costs of gambling? Learn the facts about gambling in our Top 10 list of gambling facts on Addiction Blog.

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Gambling fact or fiction?

Unfortunately, there’s almost always an exception or disclaimer to every rule or fact. So how do we differentiate between fact and myth?

Gambling is everywhere. You will find it on the Internet, state lotteries, race tracks, sporting events and slot machines in convenience stores. But gambling involves big business, and the interests of a few powerful people. So when you are looking for gambling facts, it’s best to stick with the most objective information possible. Be wary of gambling industry sponsored studies (ex. The American Gaming Association stats) and opt for either university, government, or non-profit based studies. All “facts” may be skewed, so look for the angle that the organization behind any study is trying to present. We offer our list of Top 10 gambling facts present from a U.S. Congressional Report in 1999 (the most recent we found) here, so that you can be sure that your facts are straight!

Gambling Facts: The Top 10

1. Gambling has become mainstream in American culture in the past 35 years – legalized gambling has transformed from a limited and a relatively rare phenomenon into an activity that is common and growing.  Furthermore, the fastest growing industry in the world, is Indian Gaming, which is a several billion dollar per year industry.

2. Little is known and has been studied regarding the social and economic impacts of gambling upon the United States. However, economic benefits seem to occur within the immediate vicinity of gambling facilities, while the social costs tend to be diffused throughout a broader geographic region.

3. Gambling is not a free-market business. Unlike other businesses in which the market is the principal determinant for growth, legalized gambling is mainly the product of government decisions. In the U.S., state, local and tribal governments determine which kinds of gambling are permitted, the number, location, and size of establishments allowed, the conditions under which they operate, who may gamble and under what conditions, who may work and who may own gambling institutions. The very type of competition among gambling institutions is regulated by government.

4. Online and internet gambling is legal in some states in the U.S., but federally illegal.

5. Positive economic impacts that result from the gambling industry (jobs, investment, economic development, and enhanced tax revenues) not always easy to quantify. However, the economic benefits of casino gambling have been especially powerful in economically depressed communities where opportunities are scarce.

6. Annual costs of problem and pathological gambling caused by job loss, unemployment benefits, welfare benefits, poor physical and mental health, and problem or pathological gambling treatment above were approximately $5 billion per year, in addition to $40 billion in estimated lifetime costs.

7. Gaming sites increase problem gambling. The presence of a gambling facility within 50 miles was found to roughly double the prevalence of problem and pathological gamblers in local jurisdictions.

8. Problem gambling is difficult to measure in overall populations. Studies have shown that in any population a large range (1-7%) of people are problem gamblers. But to expert’s best estimates, approximately 1.6% of the adult population in the United States, (3.2 million people), are “pathological” gamblers. Another 3.85 % (7.7 million) are lifetime problem gamblers.

9. Gambling among young people is a problem. Surveys show that about 10% – 15% of American youth have experienced gambling-related problems, and 1% to 6% of these may satisfy diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling. Furthermore, Adolescent gamblers are more likely than adults to develop problem and pathological gambling.

10. Gambling facilities are not formally linked to increased street crime. Although pathological gamblers do steal to continue gambling, the relationship between crime and gambling is difficult to prove.

The social impact of gambling: Testimony from an ex-gambler

Gambling is accessible to everyone from teenagers to seniors, especially via the internet. All that is needed is a keyboard and a credit card. However, senior citizens are one of the most vulnerable groups of people because they are dealing with the onset of retirement, loss of loved ones and being lonely.

Gambling has become a high profile and socially acceptable activity and cuts across all categories; age, economic, cultural and educational groups. In fact, we live in a culture which encourages an activity that destroys a percentage of the lives it touches. No other addiction offers a jackpot if you participate. Alcoholics, drug addicts, over-eaters, etc., are not promised a reward if they involve themselves with more enthusiasm. so what do you think? Should gambling become a market based activity? Do the benefits of gambling facilities outweigh the costs to society? Do you have another fact to share here?

Reference sources: Special thanks to Marilyn Lancelot for her contributions here
Most recent Congressional Report from the National Gambling Impact Study Commission
State of North Carolina Health and Human Services Problem Gambling Myths flyer
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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