21 Reasons to Get Government Out Of Gambling

In an insatiable quest for more and more tax revenue, many state governments have become the chief partner and enabler of Big Gambling. The result across the country over the last thirty years has been a massive expansion of government-sanctioned gambling – with little public input or scrutiny of the metastasizing social costs. Please take a moment to learn some of the facts about the unholy alliance between government and gambling, and the impact it is having on society.

  1. Across the country, more and more state governments have legalized gambling on lotteries and in casinos without much, if any, thought, of the negative impact of such a vice. Thirty years ago, only a handful of states had a lottery, and casinos only existed in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Today, 43 states have a lottery and there are more than 500 casinos in 28 states. (Source: USA.gov and Online Gambling News.)
  2. The government-led explosion of gambling has resulted in tens of billions spent each year on an industry that produces very little beyond lots of losers. Americans lost $91 billion on all forms of gambling in 2006. More money was spent on gambling than on recorded music, theme parks, video games, spectator sports and movie tickets combined. (Source: Gross Annual Wager Report and the National Gambling Impact Study Commission.)
  3. States often tout the revenue that comes from lottery sales but the overall figure is small. On average, lottery profits only contribute about 2 percent to a state’s total budget. (Source: Erik C. Owens, “Civic Values and ‘Education Lotteries’ ” in Gambling: Mapping the American Moral Landscape, Alan Wolfe and Erik C. Owens, ed. Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2009, p. 330.)
  4. States steer lottery proceeds to popular programs, like education or senior citizens, but the net benefit is often misleading. That’s because lottery funds for education often means less tax dollars for schools from the general fund. In Texas, lottery profits cover just three days of education costs. (Source: Owens and Eric Dexheimer, “Texas Lottery: A different game than state was sold two decades ago,” Austin American Statesman.)
  5. Elected officials often ignore or downplay the fact that gambling preys more on poor and working-class residents, cutting deeper into what little savings or disposable income they have. Gamblers with household incomes of less than $10,000 bet nearly three times as much on lotteries as those with incomes above $100,000. (Source: Ethics & Religious Liberties Commission.)
  6. Governments ignore or downplay the social costs that follow casinos wherever they go. The number of robberies, aggravated assaults, auto thefts, burglaries, larcenies and rapes increased by an average of 10 percent within five years in the counties where casinos opened. (Source: The Review of Economics and Statistics.)
  7. Half of the District Attorneys in Louisiana surveyed in 1996 said gambling was a factor in rising crime rates in their jurisdictions. (Source: The [Baton Rouge] Advocate.)
  8. A survey of 400 Gamblers Anonymous members found 57 (14 percent) admitted to stealing to maintain their gambling habits. Overall, they stole $30 million, for an average of $135,000 per individual. (Source: Gamblers Anonymous.)
  9. A staggering 1.5 million people became new criminals from 1994 to 1997 as a direct correlation to states’ government-sponsored legalized gambling. The cost for this rise in crime ranged from $12 billion to $15 billion. (Source: University of Illinois professor John Kindt.)
  10. Wherever governments legalize gambling, personal bankruptcies increased. In fact, bankruptcy rates increased more than 100 percent in counties that legalized casinos. The presence of a gambling facility within 50 miles roughly doubles the prevalence of problem and pathological gamblers. (Source: Creighton University study and the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.)
  11. Twenty-one percent of the people in a Minnesota study filed for bankruptcy, and 90 percent said they had borrowed from banks or credit cards to finance their gambling habits. (Source: University of Minnesota Medical School.)
  12. Government’s tout the tax revenue from gambling, but fail to account for the broader loss in economic productivity. Pathological and problem gamblers in the United States cost society about $5 billion a year in productivity losses, social services and creditor losses. (Source: National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.)
  13. The government-led expansion of gambling breeds more addicts. Pathological gambling is recognized as a medical disorder by the American Psychiatric Association and has elements of addiction similar to alcohol and drug addiction. Of the 125 million Americans who gamble at least once a year, approximately 7.5 million have some form of gambling problem, and another 15 million are classified as “at risk” of developing a gambling problem. (Source: National Gambling Impact Study Commission.)
  14. The four casinos opening in Ohio are expected to produce 107,000 problem and pathological gamblers, with a lifetime social costs of more than $1 billion. (Source: The Cleveland Plain Dealer.)
  15. One in 30 residents in Maryland has a gambling problem, and that number is expected to rise since slot machines were just introduced there in September 2010. Those most at risk for developing gambling addictions are single men between the ages of 18 and 29, either African American or Latino, with less education and income than the overall population. (Source: University of Maryland Baltimore County.)
  16. Many problem gamblers contemplate suicide as a way out of their financial dilemma. A survey of Gamblers Anonymous members found that 48 percent had considered suicide and 13 percent had attempted to kill themselves. (Source: Gamblers Anonymous.)
  17. Gambling mania is spreading to younger and younger age groups. The number of teen- and college-aged kids who gamble increased 600 percent between 2001 and 2005, thanks largely to the increase in Internet gambling and the spread of casinos. An estimated 7.9 million American adolescents are problem or pathological gamblers. (Source: Family First Aid and Harvard Medical School Division on Addictions.)
  18. Governments tout the jobs and tax revenue that come with gambling. But opening casinos in local markets provides little overall economic benefits. The so-called “convenience casinos” don’t bring money into the economy and have little net ancillary economic impact as residents substitute purchases of other goods and services for gambling. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.)
  19. Elected officials often argue that they voted to legalize gambling in response to the will of the people. But that is often not the case. Gambling interests spent an estimated $50 million to influence Ohio voters to narrowly support a measure to legalize casinos. That public relations and media blitz came after Ohio voters had repeatedly rejected legalizing casinos. But gambling interest succeeded this time as the state was mired in the economic crisis and desperate for new tax revenue and jobs. (Source: Ohio Casino Control Commission Chair Jo Ann Davidson and research.)
  20. Gambling interests often win government support through outsized campaign contributions. In Massachusetts, gambling interests contributed $1.5 million to the campaigns of state lawmakers there between 2002 and 2007. Gambling companies paid more than $8 million in salaries to lobbyists between 1998 and 2007. The river of money flowing into the campaign coffers of state lawmakers there was part of a broader 25-year push legalize gambling. (Source: Common Cause Massachusetts.)
  21. Government involvement in gambling often leads to corruption. In the 1800s, the spread of gambling-related public corruption prompted nearly every state to outlaw lotteries and other forms of gambling. As more and more states legalized lotteries and other forms of gambling in the 1980s and 1990s, corruption returned. Between 1989 and 1997, nearly 60 lawmakers combined in West Virginia, Arizona, South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri and Louisiana were convicted, pleaded guilty, or resigned for their roles in gambling-related corruption schemes. Late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon (D. Il.) told the National Gambling Impact Study Commission that gambling “has more of a history of corruption than any other industry.” (Source: Alabama Policy Institute.)

These are just some of the dirty little secrets elected officials and gambling-industry executives downplay or fail to mention, while touting the benefits of casinos or lotteries. If you would like to learn more go to http://www.GetGovernmentOutOfGambling.org.