Gambling and Crime Among Arrestees: Exploring the Link

Is there a connection between problem gambling and crime? Do compulsive or pathologi­cal gamblers resort to crimi­nal activity to pay their debts and finance their bets? To examine the link between problem gambling and crime, researchers interviewed arrestees in Las Vegas and Des Moines to probe their gambling behavior and its relationship to their crimes.

The spread of legalized gambling in the United States over the past 15 years has sparked considerable political controversy, public debate, and research (see “How Big Is Gambling?”). Many policy-makers are concerned that widespread gambling, especially what social scientists call compulsive or pathological gambling, will lead to increased crime, drug and alcohol use, and other social or psychological problems. They worry that gambling and its consequences will destroy individual lives, wreck families, and weaken societal institutions. Another concern is that many compulsive or pathological gamblers will turn to drug sales or other crimes to finance their habit and pay their debts.

National Institute for Justice (Department of Justice) Report