Studying the prevalence rate of problem gambling
Just how big is a problem of compulsive gambling? What proportion of the population is composed of chronic players?
These are frequently asked questions, especially by decision-makers considering legalizing new gaming venues or discussing the merits of proposals to provide funding for public education about problem gambling or the treatment of problem gambling .
Only one national study has tried to determine the prevalence of problem gambling.
It was conducted in 1974 by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research for the Commission on the Review of National Policy towards Gambling.
The study found that 0.77 percent of the American adult population (approximately 1.1 million people) could be considered “likely chronic gamblers”.
The study is dated, having been well done before the dramatic expansion of the game in the ’80s and’ 90s. It can not be considered an accurate assessment of the prevalence of problem gambling today.
However, since the mid-1980s, the number of state investigations has been conducted, typically on the initiative of state lottery councils and gaming commissions.
These insights are sufficient in number and have been made in such a variety of states and regions that they provide a reliable assessment and picture of the prevalence of problem gambling throughout the United States.
In most surveys a distinction is made between “probable chronic players” (those who score 5 or higher) and “problem gamblers” (those who score 3 or 4). However, these two groups are cartels and wills referred to as “problem gamblers”.
Some insights also make a distinction based on people’s response to survey questions for different time slices, such as “life,” “last year,” or “last six months.”
If we take an average of these prevalence rates, we find that about 4.3 percent of the adult population are problem gamblers. In 1995, there were just under 187 million people in age twenty of the United States and older.
If the gambling problem rate is 4.3 percent, this translates into more than 8 million problem gamblers.
Several important models are obvious, however. Prevalence rates tend to cluster in two groups. In the Midwest / Central Region, with comparatively few playing, prevalence rates tend to be lower than in other regions.
For example, in 1989, Iowa had had a low prevalence rate (this survey was done two years before the riverboat casinos started operating). The other regions (north-east / west / south) have higher rates of presence.
Particularly noteworthy are Connecticut, with greater accessibility to the game (an Indian tribal casino), and Louisiana and Mississippi, where the riverboat gambling has become prevalent in recent years.