Quick Facts About Gambling and Suicide

Written by Chad Hills

For millions of Americans, gambling addiction leads to hopeless pain and misery; for some it leads to death. The National Gambling Impact Study Commission report estimates that nearly 15 million men, women and children have a problem or pathological addiction to gambling. Gambling-related suicides are increasingly common, as legalized gambling continues to spread throughout America.

Big gambling tries to keep pathological gambling hidden or to minimize its impact. But problem and pathological gamblers are painting a much more disturbing picture, especially when gambling addiction robs men and women of their families, marriages, jobs, finances, houses and self-worth.

“There’s no way we can explain it to you if you’re not living in our personal hell, because we don’t understand it either.” -Recovering gambling addict (N.J. Gamblers Anonymous1

  • A University of California-San Diego sociologist found that “visitors to and residents of gaming communities experience significantly elevated suicide levels.” According to Dr. David Phillips, Las Vegas “displays the highest levels of suicide in the nation, both for residents of Las Vegas and for visitors to that setting.” In Atlantic City, N.J., Phillips found that “abnormally high suicide levels for visitors and residents appeared only after gambling casinos were opened.”2
  • Nevada had the highest suicide rate in the nation from 1990-1994, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.3
  • In Gulfport, Mississippi, suicides increased by 213 percent (from 24 to 75) in the first two years after casinos arrived. In neighboring Biloxi, suicide attempts jumped by 1,000 percent (from 6 to 66) in the first year alone.4
  • The National Council on Problem Gambling, citing various studies, reports that one in five pathological gamblers attempts suicide, a rate higher than for any other addictive disorder.5
  • At least 140 clients at Minnesota’s six gambling addiction treatment centers have attempted suicide, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The paper confirmed six gambling-related suicides in that state, but noted that the six are “almost certainly a fraction of the total number,” given that authorities often do not ascertain motives in suicide cases.6
  • A survey of nearly 200 Gamblers Anonymous members in Illinois found that 66 percent had contemplated suicide, 79 percent had wanted to die, 45 percent had a definite plan to kill themselves, and 16 percent had actually attempted suicide.7
  • Authorities in Montreal, Canada, officially linked four suicides and a murder-suicide to gambling problems at the Montreal Casino within the first three years of its opening.8
  • The Illinois Council on Compulsive Gambling reports that more than 20 Illinois residents have killed themselves as a result of a gambling addiction since casinos arrived.9
  • Multiple casino-related suicides also have been reported in various others states, including Iowa, Missouri and Connecticut.10
  • An investigation by the Canadian Press found more than 10 percent of suicides in Alberta and 6.3 percent in Nova Scotia were linked to gambling (2001 through 2003).11

“Suicide attempts among pathological gamblers are higher than for any of the addictions and second only to suicide attempt rates among individuals with major affective disorders, schizophrenia and a few major hereditary disorders.” -Dr. Rachel A. Volberg, President of Gemini Research, Ltd. (Gambling Research)12

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