More Gambling Does Lead to More Gambling Addiction

by Michael Burke

I just finished the article entitled “More Gambling Does Not Lead to More Gambling Addiction”.  The premise for the article is, “Despite an increase in gambling opportunities, rates of problem gambling remained stable.”  This survey showed the rate of problem gamblers remained in the 3.5 to 5.5 percent range and pathological rate in the 1.0 to 2.4 range.  Although this number is a small percentage of the adult population of the United States, it is a large number of people, representing between 12.5 million and 20 million adults.  These figures are quite similar to those cited by Dr. Howard Shaffer in the National Gambling Impact Study of 1999.  His figures can be found at page 4-4 of that study.

More gambling does lead to more gambling addiction.  Studies have historically shown that the addition of more gambling venues brings with it more disordered and problem gambling issues. NORC found that the prevalence of problem and pathological gambling will double within a 50 mile radius of a new gambling facility.  (National Gambling Impact Study Commission, 1999 pg. 4-4)

Two significant findings in the article were: “It is clear that U.S. residents are gambling less often and that overall gambling activities decreased”.  Remember, the majority of people who gamble have no problem with gambling at all.  Unlike the problem gambler, they are able to set an amount they are willing to lose.  If they lose that amount, they simply write it off as an entertainment expense.  It will have absolutely no impact on their life style.  The study never suggested that problem and disordered gamblers were gambling less, just that there was less gambling overall.

The final question asked in the article is, “With a rising number of casinos in the country, why hasn’t problem gambling increased at the same rate?”   The answer is really quite simple.  It has.  Although the study shows that gambling overall is in a modest decline, there is no data offered to show that the rate of problem and pathological gambling has declined at all.

The most troublesome line in the piece deals with “the theory of adaption.”  To accept this theory one must acknowledge that disordered gambling is not an addiction but merely a bad habit to which one will eventually adapt, and the negative consequences will not continue.  I guess the 20% of compulsive gamblers who attempt suicide as a way to deal with this addiction simply did not “adapt well.”


Michael Burke lives in Howell, Michigan where he practiced law for 25 years. Michaels’ book “Never Enough: One Lawyer’s True Story of How He Gambled His Career Away” has been published by the American Bar Association. Proceeds from the book go to his victims. He travels the country speaking to groups on the topic of trading addictions and compulsive gambling.