You Bet Your Life

Reports that the number of aggravated assaults in gambling counties in the United States (US) increased after the casinos opened there. Increase in the number of counties in the US with casinos between 1990 and 1996; Spending behavior of gambling addicts; Suggestion to counties considering casinos.

By Camille Chatterjee, published on November 1, 1999 - last reviewed on January 23, 2015


Casinos provide entertainment, employment and extra cash for lucky
betters. But statistics show that they also deal local communities a bad

Between 1990 and 1996, the number of counties in the United States
with casinos skyrocketed from 26 to 167--and crime in those areas shot up
significantly, as well.

David Mustard, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of
Georgia's Terry School of Business, and Earl Grinols, Ph.D., a professor
of economics at the University of Illinois, examined crime statistics in
all 3,165 U.S. counties between 1977 and 1996. Offenses such as rape,
aggravated assault, robbery and property damage generally declined in the
year a casino was introduced to a town, likely because it stimulated
economic development and made jobs available, says Mustard. "But over
time," he explains, "shady, unattractive things begin to happen." Local
crime rates returned to average after three years and went up thereafter:
The number of aggravated assaults in gambling counties, for example,
increased by 112 five years after the casinos opened there.

One reason may be that the slots and tables attract unsavory
characters. "The people who go to Las Vegas are very different from those
who go to Orlando," Mustard points out.

But casinos also tend to draw problem and pathological gamblers.
Gambling addicts "will often charge things on their credit cards, dipping
into savings when that runs out," he notes. "Then they start borrowing.
Eventually their resources are exhausted" and they turn to violent
measures to pay their debts which, he says, explains why crime statistics
only shoot up after several years.

Mustard suggests that counties considering casinos weigh this
information before taking a roll of the dice.