Crime Rates Appear to be Higher in Communities With Legalized Gambling Access

  • Computer studies of FBI Uniform Crime Reports by a newsmagazine, U.S. News & World Report, show that crime rates declined by about 2 percent in the U.S. as a whole in the 1993-94 period but increased by almost 6 percent in towns and cities that had access to gambling—and by close to 8 percent in towns and cities that got gambling in 1993.
  • In 1996, the second consecutive year, Nevada was listed as the most dangerous state in crime rankings compiled by Morgan Quinto Press, a research and publishing company based in Lawrence, Kansas. State and local officials charge that the study is misleading because it does not take into account the transient and tourist population when calculating its figures. However, “over the past five years Nevada has seen its violent crime rate increase by nearly forty percent while the nation as a whole has enjoyed an almost ten percent decrease,” said Scott Morgan, president of Morgan Quinto Press.

 Crime Increases Are Not Simply Tourist-Driven

  • The argument made that the greater influx of tourists into a casino area, not gambling, causes the upsurge in crime, is belied by the fact that Atlantic City, N.J., experienced a 235 percent increase in crime from 1977 to 1990 while Orlando, Fla., with a similar influx of tourists, to Disney World and other non-gambling attractions, experienced only a 53 percent increase.

 Gambling-Related Crime Tends to be Underreported

  • One third of problem gamblers surveyed in a 1996 study commissioned by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute admitted they had stolen money to support their gambling habit. But crime by compulsive gamblers—usually bad checks, embezzlement, check forgery and fraud—is often underreported.
  • Forty-four percent of 184 Gamblers Anonymous members surveyed in a study in Illinois, reported by the Washington Post in 1996, admitted stealing money from their employers while they were still gambling.
  • A 1995 Maryland report by of Attorney General J.Joseph Curran, Jr , surveyed many U.S. venues with legalized gambling and found large increases for all varieties of crime. For instance:
    • In Biloxi, Mississippi, prostitution increased by 55 percent after casinos arrived.
    • In Hancock County, Mississippi, aggravated assault increased by 185 percent between 1993 (when casinos arrived) and 1994.
    • In Black Hawk, Colorado, DUI’s shot up from five to 305 in a two-year period after casinos arrived in 1991.
    • In Deadwood, South Dakota, total arrests increased 262 percent between 1988 (the year before casinos arrived) and 1994.
    • Ledyard, Connecticut, whose casino is touted as one in which many controls were instituted to prevent crime, nonetheless has experienced increases between 1991 and 1994 from 1 rape to 7; from 137 larcenies to 708; from zero robberies to 9; and from 4 motor vehicle thefts to 27. (The casino there opened in 1992.)

 The Maryland report says crimes associated with problem gamblers—worthless checks, embezzlement, alcohol-related crimes — are up in most U.S. jurisdictions with legalized gambling.

  • The City of San Jose, California, reported a “dramatic increase” in street crime in an area near a new cardclub (a form of legalized gambling in California), according to a 1997 California Research Bureau report.
  • Gulfport police officials said in April 1997 that alcohol-related crimes such as DUI and domestic violence—crimes they say are fueled by the practice of casinos of giving free alcoholic drinks to customers—have increased sharply.
  • Investigations of possible corruption of public officials, and other criminal activity, in connection with legal casino operations have been endemic in Louisiana. Affidavits based on FBI tapes portray Louisiana state lawmakers accepting “payoffs or political contributions” from gambling lobbyists.