Gambling in Las Vegas
pinpoints prevalence of problem gambling
By David Strow LAS VEGAS
SUN May 24, 1999
New research at UNLV indicates 6.6 percent of Clark County residents are
pathological or problem gamblers, and more than half of those living
here know at least one person with a gambling problem.
And there's more evidence that problem gambling is taking its
financial toll in Las Vegas. The top local executive for Consumer Credit
Counseling Services said that 13 percent of bankruptcy petitions she
reviewed last August listed gambling debts.
The UNLV study, derived from 15 years of polling conducted by the
school's Center for Survey Research, also showed that about 20 percent
of county residents said they had at least one family member afflicted
gambling. Though widespread, the study found that these numbers have
remained fairly consistent over the past two decades.
"In every fifth house on the street, someone in there is struggling
with this problem," said Las Vegas psychologist Robert Hunter, who
has studied problem gambling in Nevada for nearly 15 years. "And in
every fifth one of
those, someone is contemplating suicide tonight."
Estimates of the extent of problem gambling have varied widely, and no
recent study has definitively estimated its extent in Las Vegas. One
widely cited 1997 study, conducted by the Harvard School of Medicine and
the gaming industry, said the rate was 1.14 percent among all American
adults. But gambling industry opponents cite studies indicating 13.2
percent of people who gamble exhibit symptoms of problem gambling.
"There's been some misleading information ... (the gaming industry)
is being told, 'Don't worry, it's only 1 percent,' " Hunter said.
"I don't think it's on its way to 60 percent, but we need to take
it seriously." Hunter, UNLV researcher Bo Bernhard, Las Vegas
social worker Gary Dymek and CCCS President and CEO Michele Johnson
presented their findings at a meeting last week of the Las Vegas chapter
of the Nevada Society for Certified Public Accountants.
Bernhard, a UNLV doctoral candidate, is currently finishing the
university-funded study, which he is conducting for his dissertation. In
a number of surveys, 52 percent of respondents said a co-worker was a
problem gambler. About 40 percent said a close friend had a gambling
problem. Bernhard acknowledged that the actual number of problem
gamblers may well exceed the 6.6 percent indicated by the study, because
the surveys only
accounted for those who admitted having a problem…
Bernhard, a fourth-generation Las Vegan, was stunned by the
results."We always believed if you live here, you don't
gamble," Bernhard said. "That was what I expected to find when
I started, but the numbers blew me away. This is a significant problem
affecting my hometown."
The results will be officially published in national science journals in
Nevada had 15,708
bankruptcies in 1998, one for every 39 households in the state. That's
the highest per-capita rate in the nation, according to the American
Bankruptcy Institute. Nationally, the per-household bankruptcy rate was
one in 68 in 1998… Nevada's bankruptcy rate rose 17 percent in 1998,
compared to 2.7 percent for the nation as a whole.