Problem Gambling Misery Summated


Graphic by Dave Colavito

Graphic by Dave Colavito

      The central statistic of casino finances is that 50% of taxable revenue comes from pathological and problem gamblers, about 4% of adults.  One evil of casino gambling is that almost none of the money that these unfortunate persons leave at casinos belongs clearly to them alone unless they have recently, and legally,  become very rich, without dependents.  Thus 50% of pre-tax revenue, more than 50% of profit, has been diverted from persons who may never have gambled, innocent bystanders or co-dependents.  Spouses, children, siblings, parents, employers, employees, clients – these are just a few examples.  The typical gambling addict is into eight, twelve, fifteen other people whom he or she will serially sacrifice to “the chase,” usually until it has consumed the gambler and destroyed all good social and emotional relationships.

     Most residents of the U.S. can recite that gambling addiction is a true addiction. Secretly, however, many believe it is a moral failing or a defect in reasoning that deserves catastrophe.  They rationalize that, if everyone can avoid a small increase in  personal tax outlays by the exenterating exploitation of the 4% who are problem gamblers,  that’s a win for the other 96%.   This “devil take the hindmost” approach may look utilitarian.  It does not take account of the dozen or more people around each problem gambler who are wrung out fiscally and emotionally in the quest for “more revenue to education.”  See the April 15 post “Robbing Peter” on this web site. 

      To comprehend the total misery dealt out by predatory gambling to a specified group of individuals would need much study. Consensus would be unlikely.  Economists like Earl Grinols have painstakingly  presented harm in terms of dollars.  While we respect this completely for cost-benefit analysis, we have always noted that  it understates the total impact, which is a stew of fiscal loss and emotional hurt.  Quantifying in an entire population the cumulative lifetime misery associated with problem gambling so as to reach consensus is impossible.  There are two aspects, however,  that everyone can agree on qualitatively.  First, the problem gambler alone does not sustain or mete out all the damage; second, not all the damage can be measured  econometrically.

          The graphic above, realized by Dave Colavito,  is an abstraction, not data-based.  It shows that the high casino profits due to problem gamblers,  which are taxed into “revenues to education” via gambling “regulated” or operated by state government come at the expense  — literal and figurative — of many more parties than those individual gamblers.  The “iceberg”  (actually it looks  more like a volcano rising above the waves from the ocean floor ) schematizes lifetime gambling-related cumulative misery as a function of psychosocial closeness to a problem gambler.  The problem gambler is the red apex.  The strata of adjoining locations represent lifetime cumulative misery of other parties at varying psychosocial distances from the problem gambler.  The anguish of a wife who has seen the furniture sold, the children made homeless and the husband she still tries to love gone  or jailed will be more than that of a client cheated or a friend whose loan to “help pay my kid’s doctor bill” is never repaid.  There are, however,  more clients and friends around a problem gambler than spouses.  Integrated  over all these more distant persons, the totality of hurt and loss is likely to exceed that of the very nearest and dearest. 

          However we define misery –as pure fiscal deprivation or that plus emotional damage  — it is not “just” the problem gambler who loses something lifelong  in the havoc of out-of-control gambling.  It is a dozen or more other people, whether innocent,  trusting, co-dependent or any combination. To the  casinos that prey on problem gamblers and governments that get income therefrom, these people are chopped liver.

Three references about impact on families 

Permission is given by Cagnyeditor to reproduce this in full or part as long as the permalink above is cited and the graphic is attributed to Dave Colavito.

3 thoughts on “Problem Gambling Misery Summated

  1. Dave, You are so on target in this dialogue! Let me share with readers what research has shown in one small northern NY county. NoCasino Thousand Islands encouraged our local Jefferson County Community College Research Department to undertake a 2-year study of gambling in this county. The nos. were startling! It was found that out of approximately 82,164 adults in the county 4,847 of them had a gambling problem. We then used the conservative figure of 10 as being the no. of people adversely affected by each of these gamblers. That means that 48,476 adults are adversely affected by the “small” figure of 4,847. When we add those two figures together, we can conservatively say that 53,323 adults in Jefferson County either have a gambling problem or are being adversely affected BY someone who has a gambling problem. That is well over half of one small county! No sane person could argue that to be a small number, and we have no reason to believe that any other county would have figures that would be much different. In fact, some of the figures would more than likely be larger in the counties where there are already casinos. Why would anyone, including our governor, think that casino revenue is the answer to our State’s fiscal woes? They obviously choose to ignore the downside and go for the “quick fix” which will only exacerbate our fiscal problems in the long run!

    Once question before I close: To the other person in your dialogue: Who of your family members are you willing to sacrifice to this illness of compulsive gambling? You apparently believe that the “small” number of people with the problem are expendable New Yorkers. They are not numbers. They are real people. (They have to be members of somebody’s family!)

  2. People often forget the harm excessive gambling has on a family.More should be said about this especialy to the media.maybe they can get the public’s attention.
    Dr. Low the founder of Recovery Inc.has a few words about how gambling can trick people.he says, pleasure blocks insight into right or wrong.It then turns anti-social into social by self deception.
    Public opinion should be against anymore gambling in NY.It harms far to many innocent families

    • Thanks for your comment, John Please help us get the message out! Write a letter to the Dem and Chron ( see u r in Rochester ) . Tell your friends to vote “NO”
      Stephen Shafer

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