New study shows problem gambling rates stable in the United States

The Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) was pleased to read the findings of a new study by the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions (RIA), which has shown that despite an increase in gambling opportunities, rates of problem gambling have remained stable.

Results were compared from two nationwide telephone surveys conducted a decade apart. The first survey in 1999-2000 interviewed 2,613 people, and the second survey in 2011-2103 interviewed 2,963 people. Participants were asked about their participation in a broad range of gambling activities such as raffles, office pools, pull tabs, bingo, cards, pool, gambling machines, casinos, lottery, Internet gambling, and sports, horse or dog track betting.

Using several different criteria, the researchers found no statistically significant change in problem gambling or its more severe form, pathological gambling. Rates of problem gambling remained in the 3.5 to 5.5 percent range, depending on the measure used, and rates of pathological gambling were in the 1.0 to 2.4 percent range.

Researchers also found that overall participation in gambling activities have decreased. Seventy-six point nine percent of participants gambled in 2011-13, down from 82.2 percent in 1999-2000. Among those participants who gambled at least once in the past year, there was a significant reduction in the average number of days on which they gambled — 59.9 days per year in 1999-2000 to 53.7 days in 2011-13.

It is worth pointing out that rates of problem gambling in Canada are similarly stable and have not changed since the mid-to-late 1990s and the findings of this study concur with the CGA Report – Problem Gambling Prevalence: A Critical Overview undertaken by Dr. Wiebe & Dr. Volberg

John Welte, senior research scientist at the RIA, offered two reasons for the decrease: ““It may be due to the economic downturn we experienced starting in 2008, which resulted in a decline in casino business,” Welte says. “It also could be due to the ‘theory of adaptation’—that while initial increases in exposure to gambling venues lead to increases in rates of problem gambling, a population will eventually adapt and further negative consequences will not continue.”

The study was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and currently appears in the online edition of the Journal of Gambling Studies.