Gambling opponents frequently claim that casinos — and casino games such as slot machines — create gambling addiction. But one simple fact — illustrated in this chart and based on independent, peer-reviewed scientific research performed over the past four decades — belies these claims: Despite the fact that the number of states with commercial casinos has increased ten-fold during the past 20 years, the prevalence rate of pathological and problem gambling in the U.S. is roughly the same today as it was 30 years ago.
The chart below compares the growth of commercial casino gaming from 1976 through 2008* with pathological and problem gambling prevalence rates during that same time.
If casinos and slot machines cause increased gambling addiction, we would see a corresponding increase in gambling problems with the expansion of casino gambling across the country. The research speaks for itself: Casinos and slot machines have proliferated over time, but gambling addiction has not.
*This chart reflects data through 2008 since it is the year of the most recent national prevalence study of pathological and problem gambling.
Pathological and Problem Gambling Prevalence Rates
1976: Commission on the Review of the National Policy Toward Gambling. (1976). Gambling in America: Final Report of the Commission on the Review of the National Policy Toward Gambling. Washington, DC: Commission on the Review of the National Policy Toward Gambling.
1979: Kallick, M., Suits, D., Dielman, T., & Hybels, J. (1979). A Survey of American Gambling Attitudes and Behavior. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
1997: Shaffer, H.J., Hall, M.N., & Vander Bilt, J. (1997). Estimating the prevalence of disordered gambling behavior in the United States and Canada: A meta-analysis. Boston: Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College.
1999: National Research Council. (1999). Pathological Gambling: A Critical Review. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
2001: Shaffer, H.J., & Hall, M.N. (2001). Updating and refining prevalence estimates of disordered gambling behaviour in the United States and Canada. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 92(3), 168-172.
2005: Petry, N.M., Stinson, F.S., & Grant, B.F. (2005). Comorbidity of DSM-IV pathological gambling and other psychiatric disorders: Results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 66(5), 564-574.
2008: Kessler, R.C., Hwang, I., LaBrie, R., Petukhova, M., Sampson, N.A., Winters, K.C., et al. (2008). DSM-IV pathological gambling in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Psychological Medicine, 38(9), 1351-1360.
Number of States With Commercial Casinos or Racinos
Source: State of the States: The AGA Survey of Casino Entertainment, 2009