Negative Effects of Problem and Pathological Gambling

There is much that the Commission does know regarding adolescent gambling, and much of it is troubling:
· Adolescent gamblers are more likely than adults to develop problem and pathological gambling. The NRC estimates that as many as 1.1 million adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18 are past year pathological gamblers, a much higher percentage than adults. 27 In the NORC study, the rate of problem and pathological gambling among adolescents was found to be comparable to that of adults, but the rate of those “at-risk” was more than that for adults. 28
· Based on its survey of the research literature on problem and pathological gambling among adolescents, the NRC reported that estimates of the “past year” rate of adolescent problem and pathological gambling combined range from 11.3 to 27.7 percent, with a median of 20 percent. Estimates of “lifetime” adolescent pathological and problem gambling range between 7.7 and 34.9 percent, with a median of 11.2 percent. Examining pathological gambling alone, estimated rates of “past year” adolescent pathological gamblers rates range between 0.3 to 9.5 percent, with a median of 6.1 percent. For “lifetime” adolescent pathological gamblers, the estimates range from 1.2 percent to 11.2 percent, with a median of 5.0 percent. 29

Clearly, adolescents are a segment of the population who are at particular risk of developing problems with gambling. This also is clearly an area in which targeted prevention efforts should be launched to curtail youth gambling. One program, funded by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, has developed a number of prevention measures aimed at youth, including the development of a curriculum that stresses the risks of gambling, speakers who relate their experiences with gambling, and the creation of posters and other printed material targeted specifically toward adolescents.

Estimating the costs of problem and pathological gambling is an extraordinarily difficult exercise— and a subject of heated debate. Without common standards of measurement, comparisons are problematic at best. Dollar costs would allow the clearest comparisons, especially in relation to the economic benefits from gambling. Yet, how can human suffering be tallied in terms of money? And many of the consequences commonly attributed to problem gambling, such as divorce, child abuse, depression, and so forth, may be the result of many factors that are difficult to single out. Inevitably, attempts to estimate the costs of problem and pathological gambling differ enormously.

The Costs to Problem and Pathological Gamblers Problem or pathological gambling can affect the life of the gambler and others in varied and profound ways. The NRC study stated that “although the research in this area is sparse, it suggests that the magnitude and extent of personal consequences on the pathological gambler and his or her family may be severe.” 30

That report notes that many families of pathological gamblers suffer from a variety of financial, physical, and emotional problems, 31 including divorce, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, and a range of problems stemming from the severe financial hardship that commonly results from problem and pathological gambling. Children of compulsive gamblers are more likely to engage in delinquent behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and using drugs, and have an increased risk of developing problem or pathological gambling themselves. 32

The National Research Council also noted the existence of a number of costly financial problems related to problem or pathological gambling, including crime, loss of employment, and bankruptcy. According to NRC, “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.” 33 NRC also states that “Another cost to pathological gamblers is loss of employment. Roughly one-fourth to one-third of gamblers in treatment in Gamblers Anonymous report the loss of their jobs due to gambling.” 34

In addition, according to NRC, “Bankruptcy presents yet another adverse consequence of excessive gambling. In one of the few studies to address bankruptcy, Ladouceur et al. (1994) found that 28 percent of the 60 pathological gamblers attending Gamblers Anonymous reported either that they had filed for bankruptcy or reported debts of $75,000 to $150,000.” 35 Others who are impacted by problem and pathological gambling include relatives and friends, who are often the source of money for the gambler. Employers may experience losses in the form of lowered productivity and time missed from work. Problem and pathological gamblers

27 NRC. 28 NORC. 29 NRC. 30 NRC, pp. 5-4. 31 NRC, pp. 5-2. 32 NRC, pp. 4-7, 4-8, 5-2. 33 NRC, p. 5-3. 34 NRC, p. 5-3. 35 NRC, p. 5-4.