"Many times I have encountered the adolescent teen who breaks down during the visit because she had hopes of getting a new pair of sneakers or some new jeans. All her hopes dashed away because her dad gambled his paycheck at Foxwoods."
-- Jacqueline Tolosko RN, M.S.N, A.N.P.
The tragedy of gambling addiction reaches far beyond the more than 15 million Americans who are problem or pathological gamblers. Employers, work associates, friends, and taxpayers often pay a steep price as well. However, it is family members who bear the brunt of the pain and misery that accompanies this addiction. In addition to material deprivations, family members frequently experience the trauma of divorce, child abuse and neglect, and domestic violence.
Some disturbing statistics:
- At least 10 percent of children of gambling addicts suffer physical abuse at the hands of the addict
- children of pathological gamblers frequently reported feelings of anger, sadness, and depression
- 50 percent of spouses and 10 percent of children experienced physical abuse from the pathological gambler.
- 23 of the spouses and 17 percent of the children of pathological gamblers were physically and verbally abused.
- More than one-third (35%) of adult problem gamblers have children under the age of 18 living at home.
A gambling addiction also
has terrible financial ramifications for family life. The gambler will spend literally any money available, including that needed for necessities and priority bills. It is not uncommon for the afflicted to waste the money needed for the bus fare home on a needless bet. According to the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling:
- Of all callers to the Connecticut Problem Gambling Helpline in 1999, 51.8% reported family or marital conflicts, 63% were having difficulties paying bills, and 77 percent had used their savings to gamble.
- The average current gambling debt of all callers to the Helpline in 1999 was $18,422. The average lifetime gambling debt was $62,514.
- Of all calls placed to the Helpline in 1999, 31.4% were from spouses, family members or friends of someone with a gambling problem.
According to the National Research Council, studies indicate that between one quarter and one half of spouses of compulsive gamblers have been abused.
Case studies of 10 casino communities conducted for the National Gambling Impact Study Commission revealed that the majority of those communities witnessed increases in domestic violence relative to the introduction of casinos.
Domestic violence shelters on Mississippi's Gulf Coast reported increases in requests for assistance ranging from 100 to 300 percent after the introduction of casinos.
A University of Nebraska Medical Center study concluded that problem gambling is as much a risk factor for domestic violence as alcohol abuse.
Domestic violence murders in at least 11 states have been traced to gambling problems since 1996.
Child Abuse and Neglect
The National Gambling Impact Study Commission reported: "Children of compulsive gamblers are often prone to suffer abuse, as well as neglect, as a result of parental problem or pathological gambling."
In Indiana, a review of the state's gaming commission records revealed that 72 children were found abandoned on casino premises during a 14-month period.
Children have died as a direct result of adult gambling problems. In Louisiana and South Carolina, children died after being locked in hot cars for hours while their caretakers gambled. An Illinois mother was sentenced to prison for suffocating her infant daughter in order to collect insurance money to continue gambling.Click here to read more about gambling's two-fold effect on children.
In a survey of nearly 400 Gamblers Anonymous members, 28 percent reported being either separated or divorced as a direct result of their gambling problems.
The National Gambling Impact Study Commission reported that it received "abundant testimony and evidence that compulsive gambling introduces a greatly heightened level of stress and tension into marriages and families, often culminating in divorce and other manifestations of familial disharmony."
The number of divorces in Harrison County, Mississippi, has nearly tripled since the introduction of casinos. The county, which is home to ten casinos, has averaged an additional 850 divorces per year since casinos arrived.
A nationwide survey undertaken for the National Gambling Impact Study Commission found that "respondents representing 2 million adults identified a spouse's gambling as a significant factor in a prior divorce."
Bankruptcy rates have reached record levels in the United States and many observers see a strong link between the spread of legalized gambling and the recent rise in bankruptcy filings. There is an abundance of evidence to support their contention.
Atlantic County, New Jersey, home of Atlantic City, has by far the highest bankruptcy rate in the state.
A 1997 nationwide study found that the bankruptcy rate in counties with at least one gambling establishment (race tracks, casinos, and jai alai frontons) was 18 percent higher than for those counties without gambling. The rate was 35 percent higher for counties with five or more gambling facilities.
Gambling-related bankruptcies in metro Detroit increased by as much as 40-fold within a year and a half of the opening of Casino Windsor, just across the Detroit River, according to local bankruptcy attorneys.
The Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Des Moines reported that southwestern Iowa, the location of Council Bluffs (home of the state's three largest slot palaces) had the highest increase in bankruptcies in the United States for 2001.
Prince George's County, Maryland, the only county in the state where casino gambling was legal in 1996, also had by far the state's highest bankruptcy rate that year.
The two California counties with that state's highest bankruptcy rates, Riverside and San Bernardino, are both adjacent to Las Vegas.
Iowa counties with a casino, racetrack or riverboat casino have a bankruptcy rate 21 percent higher than the state average.
Various studies of pathological gamblers show that 20 percent or more eventually file for bankruptcy.
SMR Research Corporation, in its lengthy study, "The Personal Bankruptcy Crisis, 1997," concluded, "It now appears that gambling may be the single fastest-growing driver of bankruptcy." The report also determined that in those areas near major casinos, "Gambling-related bankruptcies account for a good 10% to 20% of the filings."