Gambling Essay

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Erin Irlmeier

Mrs. Morenz

English 11, Period 8

21 Dec. 2018

Restrictions on Gambling

Why do some people frequently buy lottery tickets or make trips to the casino? These

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people may be problem gamblers. The number of problem gamblers is steadily growing and

effecting more and more adolescents. Many americans have a gambling problem and the

government needs to set restrictions on gambling to help those who are struggling with


Understanding the definitions of a problem gambler and a pathological gambler are very

important when trying to determine the effects of gambling on society.

“Problem gambler” is

used in two ways; one way is to refer to those who don’t have as serious of a gambling problem

as pathological gamblers, and the second is when talking about both problem gamblers and

pathological gamblers (Lesieur). The distinction between a regular gambler and a problem

gambler is that the problem gambler gets a thrill from almost winning (“The Almost- Winning

Addiction”). In an article about the treatments of pathological gambling, Henry R. Lesieur

explains “The American Psychiatric Association uses 10 criteria to define pathological

gambling.” Some examples of those criteria are irritability when unable to gamble, unsuccessful

attempts to stop or reduce gambling, and lying to cover up gambling (Lesieur).

Problem gamblers have greater brain response to nearly winning than the average

gambler (“The Almost-Winning Addiction”). Instead of treating situations as a loss a problem

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gambler instead treats it as nearly winning and gets a positive feeling about losing (Griffiths).

This may be due to the fact that some problem gamblers personalize the machines and talk to

them as if they are having an actual conversation (Griffiths). Henry Lesieur also states, “The six

problem areas are loss of control, emotional problems, family problems, job or school problems,

financial problems, and illegal activity.”

The number of problem gamblers has continually rose in the U.S. In 1997, 4.5% of the

U.S. population was considered problem gamblers which is about 15.4 million people, of those

people half of them were said to be adolescents (Calvert; Klein). In 1998, 29% of all adults in the

U.S. gambled and in Washington alone 91% of it’s adults made a visit to the casino (Calvert;

Lesieur). In 1997, gambling was the fastest growing addiction in the U.S. (Horn). Iowa had a

substantial amount of growth to their gambling industry once riverboat casinos were brought to

their state (Horn). Before these new casinos, 1.7% of Iowan adults were pathological gamblers,

after 5.4% of the population were considered pathological gamblers, that in roughly 110,000

people (Horn). In Bernard Horn’s article about curing the gambling addiction, he states

“Pathological and problem gamblers, representing 4% of the adult population, may account for

as much as 52% of an average casino’s revenues” (Horn). Twenty years ago, thirteen states had

lotteries and only one had a casino, today only Hawaii, Tennessee and Utah are the only states

that do not have some form of gambling (Kelly). In a twenty-one year span, gambling revenues

in the U.S. increases by $41.1 billion (Horn). In 1997, Americans wagered over

$550,000,000,000 (Horn). Robert Goodman, author of ?The Luck Business ?stated, “Those in

low-income brackets spend four times as large a percentage of their income on lottery tickets as

those in the highest income group” (Qtd. In Klein).

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According to Mark Griffiths, becoming addicted to gambling comes from “the

consequence of a combination of a person’s biological/genetic predisposition, their

psychological make-up and the environment in which they were brought up.” It is estimated that

50 percent of problem gamblers also have a problem with alcohol or drug abuse (Calvert;

Lesieur). It is also stereotyped that lottery players are elderly, poor, and undereducated (Calvert).

Furthermore, problem gamblers are commonly coffee-drinking, chain-smoking, young minority

males (Griffith; Lesieur). Peers can lead others to become problem gamblers by socially

rewarding them while gambling (Griffiths). Problem gamblers could feel more reward for nearly

winning because their brain triggers dopamine, a substance associated with addiction, to transmit

causing them to even enjoy nearly winning or losing (“The Almost- Winning Addiction”). No

matter what kind of gambling, the odds never favor the gambler, or the companies would not be

able to make money (Horn).

Indian casinos were coming into the states, so governments decided that if gambling was

going to be legalized they should be able to have commercial casinos too and earn tax revenue

(Horn). State governments have become so addicted to this extra money that they have started

promoting gambling (Horn; Klein). More than $100 million dollars has been given to the

government from the gambling industry in hopes that they will promote and expand the business

(Klein). In the nineteenth century, Americans fought against the legalization of gambling

because of it’s devastating social and financial effects (Lesieur). Normally when a large,

negative addiction spreads, the government will step in and intervene, but because they are

receiving lots of revenue from this industry they have done nothing to regulate or stop the

addiction (Cure). Research has proven that the gambling addiction is strongly affecting the

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population, yet the government has not intervened or tried to improve any portion of it


Location has a large effect on the source of casino revenues. For instance, larger cities

such as Vegas and Atlantic City draw out of state money which can be used to pay local taxes. In

fact, in Vegas, 80% to 90% of its revenues come from out-of-state tourists (Klein). But other

places like Iowa, which don’t draw much tourism, get there revenue from local gamblers which

ends up taking money from their own local economy (Klein). Similarly, only 16% of gamblers in

Illinois are out-of-state gamblers (Klein). This causes locals’ money to be spent at the casinos for

meals, hotel, and entertainment instead of small restaurants, hotels, and entertainment business,

therefore declining their local economy (Klein).

Gambling has a long list of connections to various crimes, some examples include drunk

driving, theft, and prostitution (Klein). As stated by Lesieur,

The Illinois survey (Lesieur and Anderson 1995) found that the average amount stolen

for 184 Gamblers Anonymous (GA) members was $60,700; the median amount stolen

was $500, and 56 percent admitted stealing. The average in Wisconsin, excluding one

person who took $8 million, was $5,738; 46 percent admitted stealing.

Problem gamblers commit felonies and account for about $1,300,000,000 in insurance fraud

each year (Horn). Casinos have caused some town to have to hire more law enforcement officers

to help control the outbreak of crime (Kelly).

According to Lesieur, pathological gamblers run their families into debt causing,

“mortgage, rent, gas, electricity, telephone, and other bills [to] be late or overdue. Gamblers may

even spend college or retirement savings (Horn). The average debt for a GA member is between

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$35,000 and $92,000 and thousands of gamblers file for bankruptcy (Horn). Timothy Kelly

included the following case history in his article about the growth of the gambling industry:

Reported by the NGISC: Debbie had never been to a casino….. She suggested to her

husband that they make the hour trek from their Denver home…. The novelty quickly

wore off for Debbie, but such was not the case for her husband. Before long he was

visiting the casinos four and five nights a week….Debbie became aware that they would

have to file for bankruptcy. Her husband had lost close to $40,000 in three months…. She

filed for divorce….Before his gambling problems, Debbie said, her husband was a stable

individual, an involved father with a strong work ethic. After gambling problems

developed, Debbie found her husband virtually unrecognizable. There were episodes of

domestic violence and bizarre behavior. “The husband I divorced was not the husband I

married,” she said. “He’s a total stranger to me. He became a liar, he became a cheat, he

became engaged in criminal and illegal activities.”

Therefore, gambling doesn’t just affect the gambler themselves it can cause problems for

their spouses and children. The poor and less fortunate are more likely to get hit by this addiction

(Calvert). Three dozen “Cash for Gold” stores are able to stay in business in Atlantic City

because after gamblers lose all their cash and clean out their bank accounts, the decide to sell

their jewelry. They will sell their watches and in extreme cases wedding rings, just so they can

have some extra cash to gamble with in the casinos (Horn). The things the people don’t think

about are the spouses at home that are planning a divorce or their kids who are eating peanut

butter and jelly because their school lunch money has run out. (Calvert). These problems don’t

only affect problems gamblers they can also affect the general gambler just on a less serious

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level. (Singleton) Gambling can change someone’s work habits, relationships, and general

personality. (Griffiths) All of this added stress can cause anxiety and mental disorders. (Lesieur)

Seventy percent of pathological gamblers have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder

and some have bipolar disease. (Lesieur)

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Works Cited

Calvert, Guy. “Gambling and the Good Society – Gambling may be risky but government

regulation would be, too.” ?World and I ?, July 2000, p. 40. ?Student Edition ?,

2f8679a. Accessed 8 Nov. 2018.

“Children Target of Alcohol and Gambling Ads on Social Media.” ? Daily Telegraph ?, 01 Nov.

2018, pp. p. 15 ?. SIRS Issues Researcher ?, ? ?.

Griffiths, Mark. “The psychology of gambling: a personal overview: Mark Griffiths explains the

background to his important study of gambling, and responds to questions he is often

asked about it by those studying psychology at A-level.” ?Psychology Review ?, Sept. 2009,

p. 25+. ?Student Edition ?,

dda79f29. Accessed 8 Nov. 2018.

Horn, Bernard P. “Is there a cure for America’s gambling addiction?” ?USA Today ?, May 1997, p.

34+. ?General OneFile ?,

87d. Accessed 14 Nov. 2018.

Kelly, Timothy A. “A Booming $800 Billion Industry – Addiction.” ?World and I ?, July 2000, p.

32. ?General OneFile ?,

0c3. Accessed 13 Nov. 2018

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Kelly, Timothy A., and Guy Calvert. “Gambling: National Addiction Or Harmless Pastime?”

World & I ?, Jul. 2000, pp. 30-47 ?. SIRS Issues Researcher ?, ? ?.

Klein, Jeffrey. “Bad odds.” ?Mother Jones ?, July-Aug. 1997, p. 3+. ?Student Edition ?,

6f062a0. Accessed 8 Nov. 2018.

Lesieur, Henry R. “Costs and treatment of pathological gambling.” ?The Annals of the American

Academy of Political and Social Science ?, vol. 556, 1998, p. 153+. ?General OneFile ?,

bfd. Accessed 13 Nov. 2018

Singleton, Quinton R. “Framework on controlling the socioeconomic costs of compulsive

gambling.” ?Gaming Law Review ?, Feb. 2008, p. 37+. ?Academic OneFile ?,

c1b5. Accessed 13 Nov. 2018

“The almost- winning addiction; Gambling.” ?The Economist ?, 8 May 2010, p. 81(US). ?General

OneFile ?,

04c6. Accessed 14 Nov. 2018.

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