transfer, a temporary redistribution of money from one group in society (lenders) to another (borrowers), which in due time will be undone by repayment of the debt? In economic impact analysis, only that portion of the incremental debt that is unrecoverable due to bankruptcy or nonpayment should be considered a real cost to society (along with the transaction costs associated with the indebtedness, such as bankruptcy proceedings, civil court actions, and the like). Even then, all of that debt may not be attributable to pathological gambling. It is likely that some pathological gamblers would have defaulted on their debts even if they had not been pathological gamblers.
Many of the criticisms leveled at research on the identification and measurement of total debt for pathological gamblers can be leveled at research on other costs associated with pathological gambling. First, it is not sufficient to describe the characteristics of pathological gamblers under treatment and assume they are representative of the entire population of pathological gamblers. More effort must be made to determine whether the chosen subsample is representative. Second, a control group of people who are not pathological gamblers but who have similar demographic characteristics must be identified, and similar costs estimated for the control group to assist in the determination of the incremental or additional cost introduced by pathological gambling. Without this control group and the associated estimate of their costs, the estimated costs for the pathological gamblers represent the gross attributes of the pathological gambler population, rather than the incremental effect of pathological gambling.
Finally, a very difficult problem arises when assessing the costs of pathological gambling. Lesieur and others point out that there is a strong correlation between pathological gambling and other addictive behavior, such as alcohol and substance abuse (Lesieur, 1992). Thus, some of the problems observed in pathological gamblers may be caused not by pathological gambling but by (for example) alcoholism. Pathological gambling may be a symptom of other underlying disorders that would show up in other ways if legalized gambling were not available. A relevant question to ask is whether, in the absence of legalized gambling, a pathological gambler would have engaged in some similarly destructive and costly addiction, such as alcoholism. To the extent