Relations between Crime and Pathological Gambling
Some of the more thorough studies examine crime and pathological gambling. Not surprisingly, the findings reveal that many problem and pathological gamblers steal or commit other crimes to finance their habit. According to the National Research Council, “As access to money becomes more limited, gamblers often resort to crime in order to pay debts, appease bookies, maintain appearances, and garner more money to gamble.” 59 In Maryland, a report by the Attorney General’s Office stated: “[ c] asinos would bring a substantial increase in crime to our State. There would be more violent crime, more juvenile crime, more drug-and alcohol-related crime, more domestic violence and child abuse, and more organized crime. Casinos would bring us exactly what we do not need¾a lot more of all kinds of crime.” 60 Some commentators link crime to pathological gambling, where addicted gamblers steal or commit other crimes to finance their habit. The Commission heard repeated testimony of desperate gamblers committing illegal acts to finance their problem and pathological gambling, including a Detroit man who faked his own son’s kidnapping to pay back a $50,000 gambling debt, 61 a 14-year hospital employee in Iowa who embezzled $151,000 from her employer for gambling, 62 and the wife of a Louisiana police officer who faced 24 counts of felony theft for stealing to fund her pathological gambling. 63 In a survey of nearly 400 Gamblers Anonymous members, 57 percent admitted stealing to finance their gambling. Collectively they stole $30 million, for an average of $135,000 per individual. 64 One witness before the Commission indicated that “80 to 90 percent of people in Gamblers Anonymous will tell you they did something illegal in order to get money to gamble.” A lot of them do white collar crimes, fraud, credit card and employee theft.” 65 In Louisiana, one man confessed to robbing and murdering six elderly individuals to feed his problem with gambling on electronic gambling devices. 66
But beyond pathological gambling, tracing the relationship between crime and gambling has proven difficult. One problem is the scope of the studies being done: some look at street crime alone, others include family crimes, still others may simply look at adolescent gambling, and others include white collar crime. Another problem is differentiating the effects of gambling from the effects of tourism in general. Nevada consistently has one of the highest crime rates in the nation. Several researchers suggest this is caused more by tourism than it is by the nature of the gambling industry. Is the crime surrounding an upscale Las Vegas resort similar to crime surrounding an amusement park? Are the volume and types of crimes comparable?
Despite having few answers to these questions, policymakers continue to push or pull gambling based on a real or perceived, positive or negative, relationship between gambling and crime.
58 William J. Miller and Martin D. Schwartz, Casino Gambling and Street Crime, 556 Annals supra note 6 at 133-4. 59 Lesieur, 1987; Meyer and Fabian (1992). 60 J. Joseph Curran, Jr., The House Never Loses and Maryland Cannot Win: Why Casino Gaming is a Bad idea: Report to the Joint Executive-Legislative Task Force to Study Commercial Gaming Activities in Maryland at E1 (October 16, 1995). (Attorney General of Maryland). 61 Mike Harris, testimony before the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, Chicago, Illinois (May 21, 1998). 62 Marlys Popma, testimony before the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, Chicago, Illinois (May 21, 1998). 63 Donna Kelly, testimony before the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, Biloxi, Mississippi (September 10, 1998). 64 Henry Lesieur, testimony Before the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, Atlantic City, New Jersey (January 22, 1998) (Institute for Problem Gambling). 65 Edward Looney, testimony Before the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, Atlantic City, New Jersey (January 22, 1998) (Executive Director, New Jersey Council on Compulsive Gambling). 66 Jarvis DeBerry and Rhonda Bell, Deadly Compulsion, New Orleans Times-Picayune at A1 (November 23, 1997).