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June 11, 2010 Print

Gambling and Crime

by Chad Hills

Data from gambling communities across the country indicates that gambling does indeed foster a significant increase in crime.

Polls show that most Americans assume an association between gambling and increased criminal activity. The gambling industry offers hearty denials and various statistical manipulations attempting to counter this perception. Data from gambling communities across the country, however, indicates that gambling does indeed foster a significant increase in crime.

“In the most desperate phase of compulsive gambling, they will do anything to gamble,” Schaff said. “They start stealing money from their spouses, family . . . they’ll get money anyhow, anywhere. They’ll do forgeries, embezzlements, thefts. It’s mostly white-collar crime.” -Counselor for the Dept. of Corrections in Wisconsin1
o “We have studies that show for every dollar you bring in gambling revenue, you’ll lose $1.90 in costs to the taxpayer,” he said. It’s as simple as ABC, “the addiction, the bankruptcy, the crime and corruption that you already have will just multiply with this expansion.” … “If you’re not fighting it, it’s like cancer and will metastasize and take you over,” said Tom Grey, President of National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling. 2
o “We arrest 450 to 500 people a year for various types of embezzlement crimes. About 40 percent are employees,” Keith Copher, chief of enforcement for the Gaming Control Board in Nevada, validates.3
o Tony Washington’s addiction to gambling was so strong that he robbed to gamble. What began as a flirtation with gambling on weekends, soon suffocated him in unpaid bills. For Washington, a 40-year-old Wisconsin man, the compulsion to gamble led to life in prison. Washington is one of 250,000 compulsive gamblers in Wisconsin and about 8 million nationwide who claim gambling either led them into debt or trouble with their families or the law. Schaff counsels inmates on gambling for the Department of Corrections in Wisconsin.4
o The number of purse snatchings, assaults, rapes, robberies and murders skyrocketed after the casinos opened. FBI statistics show the crime rate per 1,000 residents went from 134.3 in 1978 to a peak of 450.3 in 1988.5
o In the first six years of casinos in Minnesota, the crime rate in counties with casinos increased more than twice as fast as in non-casino counties. According to an analysis by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the median crime rate in casino counties rose 39 percent during that period as compared to an 18 percent increase in non-casino counties.6
o The total number of crimes within a 30-mile radius of Atlantic City increased by 107 percent in the nine years following the introduction of casinos to Atlantic City. 7
o The Mississippi Gulf Coast experienced a 43 percent increase in crime in the four years after casinos arrived. Harrison County, where most of the Gulf Coast casinos are located, witnessed a 58 percent increase in total crimes between 1993 and 1996. 8
o A U.S. News & World Report analysis found crime rates in casino communities to be 84 percent higher than the national average. Further, while crime rates nationally dropped by 2 percent in 1994, the 31 localities that introduced casinos in 1993 saw an increase in crime of 7.7 percent the following year.9
o The number of court cases filed in Tunica County, Mississippi, went from 689 in 1991, the year before casinos began operating there, to 11,100 in 1996. 10
o The annual number of calls to the Ledyard, Connecticut, police department jumped from 4,000 to 16,700 within five years after the opening of the nearby Foxwoods Casino. 11
o University of Nevada-Las Vegas researchers concluded that the state of Wisconsin experiences an average of 5,300 additional major crimes a year due to the presence of casinos in that state. They also attributed an additional 17,100 arrests for less-serious crimes each year to the existence of casino gambling. 12
o Nevada ranked first in crime rates among the fifty states in both 1995 and 1996, based on an analysis of FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics. Further, the violent crime rate in Nevada increased by close to 40 percent from 1991 to 1996, a period in which the national violent crime rate dropped by approximately 10 percent. 13
o The San Jose, California, police department reported significant increases in crime in the vicinity of a new cardroom in the year after its opening. Narcotics offenses increased by 200 percent, property crimes by 83 percent, petty thefts by 56 percent, auto thefts by 21 percent, and traffic accidents by 55 percent in a single year. 14
o The number of police calls in Black Hawk, Colorado, increased from 25 a year before casinos to 15,000 annually after their introduction. In neighboring Central City, the number of arrests increased by 275 percent the year after casinos arrived. In Cripple Creek, Colorado, serious crime increased by 287 percent in the first three years after casinos. 15
o The annual number of felony cases filed in Lawrence County, South Dakota, has increased by approximately 69 percent since the introduction of casinos to Deadwood.16
o Half of Louisiana District Attorneys surveyed in 1995 noted gambling as a factor in rising crime rates in their jurisdictions.17

Revised on 6-19-2007.

Chad Hills is a research analyst for gambling policy and sexual health for CitizenLink, an affiliate of Focus on the Family.
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 Endnotes:
1.        Zahida Hafeez, “Compulsion to gamble led to bank robbery Robber’s sister on a mission,” Journal Sentinel  (WI), 19 October 1998, News, p. 1.
2.        Gordon Govier, “Doyle’s gaming stance dismays clerics,” Capital Times     (Madison, WI), 3 March 2003.
3.        Thomas J. Walsh and Sheila Gardner, “Harveys Tahoe pit boss, accomplice nabbed in embezzlement scheme,” Reno Gazette-Journal, 10 July 2003, http://www.rgj.com/news/stories/html/2003/07/10/46650.php?sp1=rgj&sp2=Umbrella&sp3=Umbrella (8 December 2003). 
4.        Zahida Hafeez, Journal Sentinel (WI), Ibid.
5.        John Curran, “Mixed blessings in Atlantic City, N.J., a quarter-century after first casino opens it doors,” The Associated Press, Domestic News, 13 May 2003.
6.        Dennis J. McGrath and Chris Ison, “Gambling Spawns a New Breed of Criminal,” [Minneapolis]  Star Tribune, December 4, 1995, p. A6. 
7.        Andrew J. Buck, Simon Hakim, and Uriel Spiegel, “Casinos, Crime and Real Estate Values: Do They Relate?,” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, August 1991, p. 295. 
8.        Robert Waterbury, “1996 Mississippi Coast Crime Statistics,” Mississippi Coast Crime Commission, May 1997. 
9.        Joseph P. Shapiro, “America’s Gambling Fever,”  U.S. News & World Report, January 15, 1996, pp. 58, 60. 
10.     Bartholomew Sullivan, “Once-Sleepy Tunica Awakens to Gambling-Inspired Crime,” [Memphis]  Commercial Appeal, October 20, 1997, p. A5. 
11.     Mayor Wesley J. Johnson, Sr., “Fiscal Impacts of Foxwoods Casino on the Town of Ledyard, Connecticut,” April 1997. 
12.     William N. Thompson, Ricardo Gazel, Dan Rickman, “Casinos and Crime in Wisconsin: What’s the Connection?”, Wisconsin Policy Research Institute Report, November 1996. 
13.     Ed Koch, “Nevada: Most Dangerous?” Las Vegas Sun, July 16, 1997, p. 1A. 
14.     Louis A. Cobarruviaz, City of San Jose Memorandum from the Chief of Police to the Mayor and City Council, October 27, 1995. 
15.     Colorado Division of Gaming, Criminal Activity, 24 February 2003, http://www.gaming.state.co.us/enforce.htm  (24 February 2003); Ann Herda-Rapp, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Sociology UW-Marathon County, A Review of the Sociological Literature on Gambling’s Social Impacts, http://www.uwmc.uwc.edu/news_and_events/casino_files/herda-rapp.pdf  (22 February 2003); J. Joseph Curran, Jr., “The House Never Loses and Maryland Cannot Win: Why Casino Gaming Is a Bad Idea,” Report of Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr., on the Impact of Casino Gaming on Crime, October 16, 1995, pp. 9, 12, 27 December 1999, (20 February 2003).
16.     Information provided by the Eighth Circuit Court of South Dakota, November 12, 1997. 
17.     Greg Garland, “Crime Rising with Gambling: Bad Checks, Theft Show Biggest Gain,” [Baton Rouge, La.]  Advocate, July 30, 1995, p. 1A.



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