1974; Custer and Custer, 1978; McCormick et al., 1984; Lesieur and Blume, 1991; Thompson et al., 1996). In a national survey of 500 Gamblers Anonymous members, those assessed as being at highest risk for suicide were more likely to be separated or divorced (24 percent) and to have relatives who gambled or were alcoholic (60 percent). About 17 percent of gamblers who considered suicide, and 13 percent of those who had attempted it, had children with some type of addiction.

Financial Problems and Crime

Financial losses pose the most immediate and compelling cost to the gambler in the throes of his or her disorder. As access to money becomes more limited, gamblers often resort to crime in order to pay debts, appease bookies, maintain appearances, and garner more money to gamble (Lesieur, 1987; Meyer and Fabian, 1992). Several descriptive studies have reported widely ranging estimates of the proportion of pathological gamblers who commit offenses and serve prison terms for such offenses as fraud, stealing, embezzlement, forgery, robbery, and blackmail (Bergh and Kuhlhorn, 1994; Blaszczynsi and McConaghy, 1994a, 1994b; Lesieur and Anderson, 1995; Schwarz and Linder, 1992; Thompson et al., 1996a, 1996b). Still, when gambling establishments come to economically depressed communities with high rates of unemployment, as is the case with riverboat casinos in Indiana, there may be, in addition to the costs, social benefits to providing job training and jobs to the previously unemployed.

Blaszczynski and Silove (1996) noted that criminal behaviors among adolescent gamblers may be more prevalent than among adult gamblers, in part because youths have few options for obtaining funds and greater susceptibility to social pressure among gambling peers. In the United Kingdom, Fisher (1991) reported that 46 percent of adolescents surveyed stole from their family, 12 percent stole from others, 31 percent sold their possessions, and 39 percent gambled with their school lunch or travel money.

Two studies attempted to assess theft by problem gamblers, one in Wisconsin (Thompson et al., 1996a) and one in Illinois (Lesieur and Anderson, 1995; cited in Lesieur, 1998). These studies came to widely differing estimates of the magnitude of theft,

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement