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More Casinos, Fewer Gamblers?

A study from Iowa finds falling rates of gambling and gambling addiction—despite a growing number of casinos.

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By McCarton Ackerman

12/17/12

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Building more casinos may not actually contribute to higher rates of gambling addiction, according to a new University of Iowa study which examined how more casinos have influenced residents' gambling habits. Researchers interviewed 356 residents over age 18 in eastern Iowa and used the South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS) to rank their gambling behavior on a five-point scale. They found that despite a recent increase bringing the total number of casinos in the state up to 21, fewer Iowans are gambling—and fewer people have become addicted—since a similar study was conducted in 1995. “It seems society reaches a saturation point beyond which additional gambling opportunities won’t capture more people,” says Dr. Donald Black, a psychiatry professor at UI who has been studying gamblers and gambling habits since the late '90s. The most recent data shows that 83% of Iowans don't gamble, up from 72% in the 1995 survey. And the prevalence of addicted gamblers dropped from 2% in 1995 to 1.4% in the new survey—even though the number of casinos in the state doubled during this time. The number of self-reported gambling addicts remains far higher than the 0.1% reported in 1989 (before any casinos were built). But Black says the findings suggest that “casinos have had a great impact [on problem gamblers], but it has stabilized."

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