Tragic Stories of Problem Gambler’s Families

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GAMBLING’S IMPACT ON FAMILIES
by Ronald A. Reno

The tragedy of gambling addiction reaches far beyond the more than 15 million Americans1 who are problem or pathological gamblers. Employers, work associates, friends, and taxpayers often pay a steep price as well. However, it is family members who bear the brunt of the pain and misery that accompanies this addiction. In addition to material deprivations, family members frequently experience the trauma of divorce, child abuse and neglect, and domestic violence.

Divorce
In a survey of nearly 400 Gamblers Anonymous members, 28 percent reported being either separated or divorced as a direct result of their gambling problems.2

The National Gambling Impact Study Commission reported that it received “abundant testimony and evidence that compulsive gambling introduces a greatly heightened level of stress and tension into marriages and families, often culminating in divorce and other manifestations of familial disharmony.”3

The number of divorces in Harrison County, Mississippi, has nearly tripled since the introduction of casinos. The county, which is home to ten casinos, has averaged an additional 850 divorces per year since casinos arrived.4 A nationwide survey undertaken for the National Gambling Impact Study Commission found that “respondents representing 2 million adults identified a spouse’s gambling as a significant factor in a prior divorce.”5

Child abuse and neglect
The National Gambling Impact Study Commission reported: “Children of compulsive gamblers are often prone to suffer abuse, as well as neglect, as a result of parental problem or pathological gambling.”6

In Indiana, a review of the state’s gaming commission records revealed that 72 children were found abandoned on casino premises during a 14-month period.7

Children have died as a direct result of adult gambling problems. In Louisiana and South Carolina, children died after being locked in hot cars for hours while their caretakers gambled.8 An Illinois mother was sentenced to prison for suffocating her infant daughter in order to collect insurance money to continue gambling.9

Cases of child abandonment at Foxwoods, the nation’s largest casino in Ledyard, Conn., became so commonplace that authorities were forced to post signs in the casino’s parking lots warning parents not to leave children in cars unattended.10

Domestic violence
According to the National Research Council, studies indicate that between one quarter and one half of spouses of compulsive gamblers have been abused.11

Case studies of 10 casino communities conducted for the National Gambling Impact Study Commission revealed that the majority of those communities witnessed increases in domestic violence relative to the introduction of casinos.12

Domestic violence shelters on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast reported increases in requests for assistance ranging from 100 to 300 percent after the introduction of casinos.13

A University of Nebraska Medical Center study concluded that problem gambling is as much a risk factor for domestic violence as alcohol abuse.14

Domestic violence murders in at least 11 states have been traced to gambling problems since 1996.15

Document Used from Focus on the Family

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