Gambling Problem Negative Effects: Homelessness and Abuse

NRC concluded, “Many families of pathological gamblers suffer from a variety of financial, physical, and emotional problems.” NRC reviewed studies showing that spouses of compulsive gamblers suffer high rates of a variety of emotional and physical problems. 132 In a survey of nearly 400 Gamblers Anonymous members, 18 percent reported experiencing a gambling-related divorce. Another 10 percent said they were separated as a direct consequence of their gambling. 133

Individuals with gambling problems seem to constitute a higher percentage of the homeless population. The Atlantic City Rescue Mission reported to the Commission that 22 percent of its clients are homeless due to a gambling problem. 134 A survey of homeless service providers in Chicago found that 33 percent considered gambling a contributing factor in the homelessness of people in their program.

Other data presented to the Commission further substantiated this link. In a survey of 1,100 clients at dozens of Rescue Missions across the United States, 18 percent cited gambling as a cause of their homelessness. 135 Interviews with more than 7,000 homeless individuals in Las Vegas revealed that 20 percent reported a gambling problem. 136 Again, whether this is caused by gambling or by other factors related to addictive behavior is unclear, but homelessness and gambling should be included in future research.

Family strife created by gambling problems also appears in the form of abuse, domestic violence or neglect. In Biloxi, Mississippi, a witness testified before the Commission how her husband’s gambling problem affected their relationship: “I lived in fear daily due to his agitation and outbursts of violence broken doors, overturned furniture, broken lamps, walls with holes in them. I haven’t the words to describe the hell that my life became on a daily basis.” 137

NRC cites two studies showing that between one quarter and one half of spouses of compulsive gamblers have been abused. 138 Six of the 10 communities surveyed in NORC’s case studies reported an increase in domestic violence relative to the advent of casinos. 139

One domestic violence counselor from Harrison County, Mississippi, testified that a shelter there reported a 300 percent increase in the number of requests for domestic abuse intervention after the arrival of casinos. A substantial portion of the women seeking refuge reported that gambling contributed to the abuse. 140

Other casino communities report similar experiences. Rhode Island Attorney General Jeffrey Pine reported a “significant increase” in domestic assaults in the community of Westerly, R. I. after the opening of the Foxwoods casino 20 minutes away. 141 Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. has likewise reported a linkage between expanded gambling and increases in domestic violence in numerous locales. 142 The Commission even received testimony of several cases of spousal murder and attempted murder linked to problem and pathological gambling. 143

132 NRC, p. 5-2. 133 Testimony of Henry Lesieur, Before the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, Atlantic City, New Jersey (January 22, 1998). (Institute for Problem Gambling) 134 Atlantic City Mission, “Report to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission” Atlantic City, NJ (January 24, 1998) p. 17. 135 International Union of Gospel Missions, “Nationwide Survey: Nearly One in Five at Missions Say Gambling a Factor in Their Homelessness,” (March 12, 1998). 136 Denise Cardinal, “More Beds Sought for Area’s Growing Homeless Population,” Las Vegas Sun, (May 11, 1998). 137 Testimony of L. M., Before the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, Biloxi, Mississippi (September 10, 1998). (Witness) 138 NRC, p. 5-2. 139 NORC, at 73. 140 testimony of Rachel Caine before the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, Biloxi, Mississippi (September 10, 1998). (Program Director, Salvation Army Domestic Violence Shelter). 141 Police Chiefs in Westerley and Hopkinton Announce Link of Casino Gambling to Increases in Crime and Economic Hardship for Families,[ press release], Department of the [Rhode Island] Attorney General (February 6, 1996).