Research has shown that when a casino comes to an area, the result is increased crime, mental disorders, family breakdown, debt and suicide.
BMA Warns of Gambling Epidemic
The forthcoming relaxation of gaming laws may increase the amount of problem gamblers, warns the British Medical Association.
In a report released on 15 January, the BMA expressed concern about the potential rise in adolescent gambling addiction. They also drew attention to the links between gambling and violence, drugs and alcohol addiction among young people.
Already, there is an estimated 300,000 problem gamblers, with symptoms ranging everywhere from physical and mental health difficulties to problems with employment, finances and relationships. This figure is expected to skyrocket as casinos begin opening throughout Britain this September when the Gambling Act 2005 kicks in.
Professor Jim Orford criticised the government for being ‘naïve’ and ‘playing dice with people’s health’. He said: ‘We could be talking about a million people affected by it in any one period of 12 months, and that begins to put it on a par with drug addiction problems.’
Doctors fear our health system is unprepared for the explosion of problem gamblers requiring counselling and other services. ‘There needs to be treatment for problem gambling available on the NHS similar to drug and alcohol services’ said Vivienne Nathanson, of the BMA.
Although The Royal College of Psychiatrists has warned that cases of problem gambling increase in proportion to the availability of gambling facilities, Tessa Jowell, the minister responsible for the Gambling Act, has hotly denied any relation between the new laws and problem gambling. ‘I don’t accept that it will lead to an increase in problem gambling’ she said. ‘If this legislation gave rise to an increase in problem gambling then it would have failed and it would be bad legislation.’
Increase in Addiction and Mental Disorders
The World Health Organisation’s classification of mental and behavioural disorders includes ‘pathological gambling’ as a ‘habit and impulse disorder.’ In their report on the effects of gambling, The Royal College of Psychiatrists has noted that ‘The experience in various jurisdictions has shown that the incidence of pathological gambling in a population is directly related to the accessibility of gambling and the commercial pressures to take part.’ The RCP go on to point out that:
If the facilities for gambling in the population are increased, the total amount of gambling also increases. It does so as follows:
- Some, who had previously not gambled, start doing so, so that the number of those who do not gamble goes down.
- The amount of gambling of the majority, while still varying…increases.
- The number of those who gamble to such a degree that damage results increases.
Greater accessibility therefore affects the whole population. Whatever the level of previous gambling, the amount of this will increase. Clearly, those who had previously gambled frequently are more likely to do so excessively with resulting damage.
Statistics show that vulnerable people are the most susceptible to become pathological gamblers. In Australia, one-third of the gambling industry’s total revenue comes from ‘problem gamblers’ or ‘pathological gambling.’
Harmful To Children
Casinos put children at risk as parents leave or neglect them to gamble. The UK would do well to learn from research undertaken in the American state of South Dakota. Jeff Blumberg, a state attorney in South Dakota reported that,
“The South Dakota Department of Social Services reports that in the fiscal year preceding gaming there were approximately 300 reports of children in need of protective services. In the fiscal year following the institution of gaming, that number rose to 500 reported cases. Actual juvenile case filings including delinquency, children in need of supervision and abuse and neglected cases rose by 15 percent. In addition to increased felony activity, Class 1 misdemeanors including simple assaults and DWI’s also increased by approximately 70 percent.”
Increase in Poverty
Statistics show that lower-income people spend a greater percentage of their income on gambling. Poor people are the most likely to lose their money on the jackpot while only a handful of wealthy casino owners get richer. Usually it is wealthy foreign corporations that exploit the gambling market, sucking profits out of a local area.
Robin Burgess, Director of RiGT, states ‘Problem Gambling has a profound effect on not only those involved but the wider community around them.’ One such effect is that when people lose their money through gambling, they become dependent on the state.
Austrian ex-pat, Robert Krause, who campaigned against a casino in Sheffield, tells a story that is all too familiar. Beginning with a million dollar fortune, Krause’s uncle eventually lost everything on the jackpot and is now living off a state pension. ‘With problem gamblers,’ Mr. Krause concluded, ‘the Government has to pick up the pieces by providing them with benefits or subsidising their housing. In Sheffield this could cost up to £1 million a week.’
Casinos also increase the overall poverty of a community. This is because gambling creates no new wealth but is parasitic. A casino siphons off money that would otherwise be spent in the regular business community. Business leaders become reluctant to invest money in areas that sustain large gambling industries because of bad debts, delinquent time payments, and bankruptcy.
The Creighton Bankruptcy Study in America found that ‘those counties that legalized casino gambling during the 1990s experienced a cumulative growth rate in individual bankruptcies that was more than double the growth rate for corresponding non-casino counties.’
Increase in Crime
Darren Warner, a senior police expert on gaming, is among many who fear that the new casinos will lead to a surge in crime. As head of Metropolitan police gaming unit, he wrote that relaxed rules could be an invitation to ‘wholesale crime and money laundering.’ (See Telegraph report, “Supercasinos 'could lead to crime wave'”)
Research has shown that gambling increases the number of robberies, murders, assaults, embezzlement, bribes, extortions and insurance-related fraud. Organised crime thrives on a gambling industry. Needless to say, police costs increase whenever a casino comes to an area.
In 1996, the West Ohio Conference Council reported that the American Insurance Institute estimated that 40% of white-collar crime has its roots in gambling. The Institute’s findings indicate that insurance fraud alone as related to gambling was $1.3 billion per year.
The U.S. Department of Justice studied people who had been arrested in Las Vegas and Des Moines, Iowa. In their report, they found significant connections between gambling and crime.
‘More than 30 percent of pathological gamblers who had been arrested in Las Vegas and Des Moines reported having committed a robbery within the past year, nearly double the percentage for low-risk gamblers. Nearly one-third admitted that they had committed the robbery to pay for gambling or to pay gambling debts. In addition, about 13 percent said they had assaulted someone to get money.
Compulsive or pathological gamblers were significantly more likely to have sold drugs than arrestees who fit the other gambling types.’
In the face of all this evidence, Labour officially denies that its gambling policies will increase crime.