Gambling - Crime

By Jerry Price
Aug 21, 2006

INCREASING crime is a well-documented companion of legalized gambling. Crime predictably rises three to four years following the opening of a casino as problem and pathological gamblers begin to deplete their resources. Gamblers who have ‘bottomed out’ their own resources frequently begin borrowing money from family, friends and business relationships. This ‘borrowing’ frequently takes the form of theft. Gamblers often feel they are only borrowing other people’s money until they can win it back.

“Crime may drop slightly in communities with new casinos for the first few months or years, but Atlantic City is typical of the longer view. Three years after the introduction of casinos, there was a tripling of total crimes. Per capita crime in Atlantic City jumped from 50th in the nation to first. Comparing Crime rates for murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft reveals Nevada is the most dangerous place to live in the United States.

“According to a 1990 Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene survey, 62 percent of problem gamblers in treatment had committed illegal acts as a result of their gambling, 80 percent had committed civil offenses, and 23 percent were charged with criminal offenses. A similar study of nearly 400 members of Gamblers Anonymous showed that 57 percent admitted stealing to finance their gambling. On average they stole $135,000 each, for a total of more than $30 million.

“The National Gambling Impact Study Commission’s final report noted that among those who did not gamble, only 7 percent had ever been incarcerated. In contrast, more than three times this number, 21.4 percent, of individuals who had been pathological gamblers at any point during their lifetime had been incarcerated. That’s TRIPLE the incarceration rate of a non-gambling community.

“Oregon corrections officials have determined gambling is a significant motivator in criminal activity among the state’s women. To help rehabilitate female convicts, the state penal system is launching pilot addiction treatment programs. The correctional system there finds 20-30 percent of female convicts have histories of gambling problems.”

Excerpted from Carl G. Bechtold, “Tide of Gambling Yields Backwash of Addiction” (National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling), August 21, 2004 [Accessed March 2, 2006]

An addiction to gambling, large gambling debts, and access to large sums of money often lead to embezzlement. That was apparently the formula that led to the downfall of a Wisconsin fire chief. His attorney has reimbursed the city of Mequon $30,000 and said that the chief is undergoing treatment for a gambling problem. The chief had used a city credit card on two previous occasions to fund his gambling venture but reimbursed the city both times. He finally came under suspicion when it was discovered that $30,000 was missing from a fund established to assist catastrophically ill firefighters and to purchase fire prevention equipment.

Since 2003, at least eight Milwaukee-area people have been convicted of crimes related to gambling. The thefts ranged from $5,000 to more than $500,000. Sentences imposed ranged from two years probation to 10 years in prison.

Tom Kertscher, “Embezzling Blamed on Gambling Addictions,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 6, 2006

According to Kandace Blanchard, executive director of the New Mexico branch of the National Coalition on Problem Gambling, a drug named Martex has created compulsive gambling behavior in Parkinson’s patients being treated with it. Blanchard said, “It’s strange, but when they take people off the drug, they stop gambling. If they get to the bottom of that, they’d really be getting to the bottom of a lot of addiction problems.”

That hope is being tested in a clinical trial using a drug that has previously been used to treat alcoholics. Sandra Lapham of the Behavioral Health Research Center of the Southwest in Albuquerque, N.M., began the study in October 2005. “The brain works in such a way that we get in these ruts in our neuro-chemical pathways, and that makes us fall into patterns of behavior. For some people, if you take away that underlying craving, change that pathway, then you take away the enjoyment of that behavior and can stop it,” she said.

Sue Vorenberg, “Disconnecting the Brain Wiring of Compulsive Gamblers,” Scripps Howard News Service, October 14, 2005

Further Learning

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