Economic Effect of Gambling in the US

Gambling is one of the American people’s favorite hobbies, and the topic has amazed me since I read the book Bringing Down the House in 5th grade. On a recent college visit to California, I was surprised to learn that one course available for completing the math requirement was called “The Probability of Gambling”, and was a study of the probability behind various card games, including Texas Hold ‘em and blackjack. Gambling is also a popular venue in the media, as can be seen in popular movies such as 21 and Casino Royal. When I was younger, the concept of earning money while playing a game that I enjoyed fascinated me, but as I grew older, I realized the naivety of those beliefs. Casinos wouldn’t offer gambling if patrons were consistently putting the casinos in debt. Now, I am more interested in the effect gambling has had on society, specifically on its economic impacts. I believe that gambling has been beneficial for the US economy in the past and will continue to benefit the economy for years to come, but the stress gambling puts on society has greatly increased problems in communities with high profile gambling industries.

Gambling in the Americas began when the first colonists came from England, and the Virginia Company needed a way to get some profit. They turned to a lottery, which was quite successful, except it was associated with settler’s laziness as well as the economic troubles faced by the colony. The Crown eventually shut down the lottery due to its impact on a royal lottery operated throughout the British Empire. Lotteries were used again by American colonists in an attempt to raise funds for the Revolutionary War without raising taxes. This was extremely successful, and the practice was continued into the 19th century in order to transportation improvements, especially as the Western frontier continued to gain attention and popularity. When gold was discovered in California, gambling became one of the most popular forms of entertainment for miners in the West. However, the economy slid into a recession after the gold rush, leading many people to associate gambling with economic depression. Lotteries were also becoming increasingly corrupt, with organizers fixing the results for a portion of the pot. These circumstances led to nationwide ban on gambling, with the exception being Nevada, where professional gamblers would flock to from across the country to create the foundation for modern day Las Vegas.

The ban on gambling didn’t last long, as the Great Depression forced government leaders to revoke the ban in an attempt to stimulate the faltering economy. Gambling once again grew in popularity, although it only increased the divide between the rich and the poor due to the uneven payoff associated with casino gambling. State lotteries became popular during the Cold War, especially when Reagan became president, because he cut national funding for key aspects of the country such as education and Medicare in order to fund the war against the USSR. Tribal gambling also began to grow in popularity during this time, due to state’s inability to regulate prize money on reservations. Instead of going to state run lotteries or gambling locations, locals and tourists alike would flock to the reservations in the hopes of winning it all, although this rarely ever occurred. These various aspects of gambling have steadily become more popular, with casinos and lotteries providing support for various state economies.

Gambling provides two main benefits to states: casinos bring in tourists while also paying tax to the state for gambling revenues. An influx of tourists means money flows into the state economy without any significant loss of money due to the low odds of winning at casinos. The state gets even more money from gambling because casinos are forced to pay a tax on all revenue earned, with tax revenue almost reaching $1 billion dollars in Nevada. The gambling industry has also created more than 500,000 jobs, lowering unemployment throughout the nation. However, gambling isn’t perfect, and there are other statistics that paint a much more worrisome picture about the industry.

Crime seems to be strongly correlated to gambling, with cities introducing casinos seeing an increase of over 50% in crime rates. This forces states to spend more on the police force, diverting funding away from other projects in an attempt to combat a problem caused by gambling. Organized crime is also a very common issue due to the large amount of cash flowing in and out of casinos each day. Problem gambling also becomes a much larger issue when casinos are present, which in turn leads to a higher crime rate when people need to pay off gambling debt. There are some detrimental aspects of gambling in society, but for the most part, the gambling industry has helped keep the American economy from slumping.

After reviewing the various statistics from my research, I believe that gambling has been beneficial for America. Whenever the country has faced economic hardship, gambling has been promoted or legalized to bolster a weak economy. Not only does it have a positive influence on the economy, but I believe that gambling also benefits the American people. Card games such as poker and blackjack are universal and can help bring people together in social environments. In a few short months, I will be able to legally experience the large attraction gambling has to a large number of Americans. Although there are some harmful side effects of gambling, these are outweighed by the benefit that the industry has displayed throughout history.

When Gambling Takes Over

The casino is a world onto itself. There are no windows, no clock, but there are flashing lights, and the din of clacking coins and whirring slot machines. Beyond the slots, figures are mesmerized at the crap table. Interest in poker hit new heights with televised Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments. For the majority of gamblers, this is excitement, recreation, a fun diversion or escape from the ordinary and a chance to beat the odds. For others, an estimated three percent of the adult population, it’s an addiction, an endless roller coaster of excitement and despair.

A pervasive characteristic of addiction of any kind is that the repeated behaviors have led to a range of negative consequences. This may be putting it mildly in the case of pathological gambling, because someone in the grips of compulsive gambling usually suffers severe blows to finances and relationships before seeking help. His or her life may be in shambles.

Often the compulsive gambler’s denial leads him to believe that the next round will save the day. Of course, if the numbers come up right, the cash or credit won is then “invested” again. Gambling addiction is hardly a recent development, but the advent of electronic poker and the break-neck speed of today’s slot machines, as well as Internet gambling have actually sped up the time it takes to gamble for fun and when it slips into problematic, then compulsive behavior.

Pathological gambling, like other addictions, is both a biological and a behavioral disease. While we don’t know all the factors leading to gambling addiction, they often include social, family and psychological elements. We do know that the brain neuropathways involving the brain’s mechanisms are affected in an individual’s perception of rewarding experiences. The emotional escape that an individual finds in gambling may become entrenched.

We have seen from 15-20 percent of patients who suffer from cross-addictive disorders, such as alcoholism or drug dependency with problem gambling. Some estimates state that 35 percent of those with substance abuse or dependence also have met the diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling at some point in their lives. The SOGS (South Oaks Gambling Screen) is the accepted psychosocial diagnostic tool to identify a gambling problem and its progression.

Both substance and gambling addiction are progressive diseases, and may be characterized by inability to control impulses (to use or to gamble) denial, anxiety mood swings and depression and the need for instant gratification. Gambling, like chemical dependency, offers euphoric highs, which are inevitably followed by emotional valleys and usually remorse and shame. A major difference in gambling versus substance addiction is that the alcoholic or drug addict doesn’t believe the substance is the answer to recovery and to his problems, while the compulsive gambler believes the Big Win will be the answer to all his problems.

Gambling addictions can also result in symptoms such as blackouts and sleep disorders and hopelessness. Divorce, relationship and work problems, even arrests are some devastating consequences of compulsive gambling. A person’s general health is often neglected, including medical conditions that have been ignored. Gambling addiction is certainly a family disease, creating a dysfunctional family system that revolves around the individual’s addiction. Children may be emotionally stranded as well as physically neglected. Kids are affected long term too, with studies estimating 35 to 50 percent of children of pathological gamblers eventually experiencing gambling problems of their own.

It is important that when chemical and gambling addictions co-occur, they are treated at the same time. Like chemical dependency, gambling addiction is addressed in holistic treatment based on the Twelve Step Philosophy. Treatment is individualized and takes into account issues of gender and age.

Gambling: is it the money?

Some experts, including Dr. Henry Lesieur, St. John’s University, NY, who co-authored the SOGS screening assessment, believe it isn’t really about the money, even though money becomes a looming issue. Seeking action seems to be the major impetus for many. Being in action may be similar to the high of taking cocaine. “Chasing losses” is term use by habitual gamblers to describe attempting to recoup the gambling losses by winning. The action gambler usually likes to gamble on site, at a casino, racetrack, or other “live” venue. Often they are identified by casinos as “high rollers” and received comped rooms and meals. Others, though, don’t gamble for action so much as numb their feelings with compulsive gambling, so it becomes the ultimate, albeit temporary escape.

Age and gender as factors

A study by University of Connecticut Health Center psychiatrists published in 2002 evaluated gamblers seeking treatment and found significant differences by age and gender in pathological gamblers. Middle aged (aged 36-55) and older gamblers tended to include more women, at 45-55 percent, than younger gamblers (aged 18-35) at 23 percent. Middle aged and older women didn’t begin gambling regularly until the age of 55, while older men reported a habit of lifelong gambling. Perhaps surprisingly, the women also wagered greatest amounts in the month prior to treatment. Younger gamblers reported most problems with substance abuse, social and legal problems, while older gamblers found more employment-related problems.

There is hope for recovery

Pathological gamblers, like others who suffer from addiction can and do recover. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, with Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, can change unhealthy behaviors and thoughts, including false beliefs, rationalizations, and self-destructive feelings. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy also helps individuals to meet life on its own terms rather than escape painful emotions with compulsive addictions.

A holistic treatment program that addresses the root issues of addiction as well as any co-occurring disorders is an effective approach that treats the whole person. Continuing care may be essential, especially for impulse control, as well as ongoing participation in support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous. The recovering gambler may also need professional financial advise, and family therapy can help to develop a supportive, healthy family structure for sustained recovery.

Long Before Las Vegas – History of Gambling in the US

It’s hard not to think of the glittering lights and non-stop pace of the Las Vegas strip when you think of gambling. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week there are people crowded around the blackjack and roulette tables hoping to hit it big. Gambling has long been a topic that leads to heated debates for a long time. However, gambling in the United States has a history that dates us back a long time before Las Vegas came around.

Gambling can be dated back to the earliest days of settlers in the 17th century. Attitudes about gambling varied by settlements as each one was founded by different members of the British colonies. The Puritans outlawed pretty much any form of gambling including dice, cards and even private tables. There was a lot of hostility towards the thought of someone who made gambling their profession. The English on the other hand, saw gambling as a pleasant and harmless distraction from everyday life and it was a popular past time. Eventually, people came to blame the problems of the new colonies on gambling and acceptance of it waned.

Once the early 19th century rolled around, gambling was still prevalent throughout the United States but it had begun to take on new forms. Lotteries were a very popular way to raise revenue for the states. The proceeds from lottery profits were used to build public works building such as schools and churches. Another form of gambling that popped up in the 19th century was horse racing. It was not nearly as large nor as organized as horse racing today but this is the first time we see gambling taking on new forms.

As the settlers of the United States moved west, so did gambling. It began to take on a more organized form in the sense of casinos. The purpose of these establishments however was not so much to raise revenue for the community but to take advantage of those making the long trek west. During this time in the 1800s, criticism of gambling on moral grounds was increasing. Scandals throughout lottery institutions and more permanent gambling casinos that were taking advantage of people were hit hard by social reform and eventually most forms of gambling throughout the country was prohibited.

When the gold rush hit California in the mid 1800s, people were itching to spend their new found wealth and gambling found its new mecca. Gambling spread through the state like wild fire and both private and public parties were relying on the revenue. Eventually, the popular mind set against gambling made its way west to California and laws were set in place to limit gambling. By the end of the 19th century, most forms of gambling were illegal but this of course did not stop people – it simply drove them out of sight of the authorities.

Limits on gambling began to subside into the 20th century and by the time the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, the public attitude towards gambling eased up significantly. All of a sudden gambling was not seen as a crime but as a way to help stimulate the economy. Forms of gambling such as bingo and horse racing saw a huge comeback during this time period. It was also during the 1930′s that gambling as an industry was formed in the state of Nevada – by organized crime professionals. There is still a fine line to walk between the crime world and the legal political world when it comes to gambling and forms of gambling other than government regulated lotteries are illegal in most states. There will surely be another shift in how gambling is viewed in this country and there will probably never be an agreement on the moral implications of such a practice but, it is sure that gambling will continue to evolve.