Harmful impacts of problem gambling

Most people can gamble without negative consequences. A small percentage who gamble suffer enormous social, economic and psychological implications. Individuals, families and communities all suffer from problem gambling and while it would be impossible to describe all of the repercussions associated with problem gambling, the following issues help to illustrate why problem gambling can be so destructive.

Snapshot: effects in Oregon

Problem gamblers experienced a complex array of mental health, social, financial and legal issues – 48 percent indicated suicidal thoughts, 30 percent alcohol-related problems, and 13 percent drug-related problems. The average gambling-related debt of those in treatment was $22,000, with 60 clients reporting gambling debts well over $100,000. Fifty-seven percent reported they either jeopardized or lost a significant relationship or job because of gambling. More than 36 percent committed illegal acts to obtain gambling money (Moore, 2008).

Effects of adult problem gambling on children

  • “Children of compulsive gamblers are often prone to suffer abuse, as well as neglect, as a result of parental problem or pathological gambling.” (National Opinion Research Center, 1999).
  • Research consistently shows higher rates of pathological gambling in teens whose parents gamble excessively (Gupta & Derevensky, 1997; Jacobs, 2000; Wallisch & Liu, 1996).
  • Children of problem gamblers have been shown to have higher levels of use for tobacco, alcohol, drug use, and overeating than do their classroom peers (Gupta & Derevensky, 1997).
  • The National Research Council (NRC, 1999) reported on studies indicating that 10-17 percent of children of compulsive gamblers had been abused.

Domestic violence

  • The National Research Council (1999) reported on studies indicating that 25-50 percent of spouses of pathological gamblers have been abused.
  • Studies of 10 casino communities revealed that domestic violence rates increased with the opening of casinos (National Opinion Research Center, 1999).


  • About one in four (24 percent) clients enrolled in Oregon’s gambling treatment system reported committing crimes to finance their gambling (Moore ,2007).
  • “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” (NRC, 1999).
  • Gamblers Anonymous (GA) studies report that approximately half of the members had stolen to gamble and more than one-third had been arrested (Thompson, Gazel, & Rickman, 1996).
  • The majority of gambling-related crimes are non-violent; embezzlement, check forgery, credit card theft, fenced stolen goods, tax evasion, insurance fraud, employee theft and fraud are common gambling-related crimes.


  • Of clients enrolled in Oregon’s gambling treatment system 21 percent had suicidal thoughts and about 7 percent had made suicide attempts (Moore , 2007).
  • A major depressive disorder is likely to occur in 76 percent of pathological gamblers (Unwin, Davis, & Leeuw, 2000).

Community Costs of Gambling Problems

Recent national estimates place the social-economic cost of approximately $3,000 for each problem gambler and $11,000 for each pathological gambler (Grinols, 2004). That’s an estimated social-economic cost in excess of $449 million for Oregonians.