Social Impacts of Gambling in the United States

A Comprehensive Analysis of State Regulatory Bodies, Legislatures, and Health Departments
PRS Briefs
PRS Policy Brief 0910-05
Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Central to New Hampshire’s decision on expanding gambling in the state is the social impact such a decision will have on current residents. This report examines how gambling regulatory bodies, state legislatures, and departments of health have addressed expanded gambling in thirty-four states. In addition to the findings generated from these contacts, this report contains a synopsis of academic research on the social impacts of gambling and how states fund problem gambling services, while offering policy recommendations to the Commission. Due to the lack of consensus on the social impacts of gambling, this report does not offer concrete conclusions regarding the effects of expanding gambling, but rather examines how states with expanded gambling have dealt with gambling-related issues.

Our research has found two potential social impacts related to expanded gambling: increased problem gambling and increased crime. Both problems have geographic consistencies and are generally concentrated within a fifty-mile radius of a new casino. Regulatory bodies that oversee state gambling vary in structure and power, as well as board-selection processes. The post-legalization involvement of these agencies, as well as state legislatures and health departments, also varies across states. Problem gambling funding ranges from zero public funding to $2.50 per resident. New Hampshire currently allocates no public funding specifically to problem gambling.

This report presents four main recommendations for consideration in proceeding with gambling legislation:

  1. Analyze the infrastructure of New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services to determine how gambling addiction services and treatment will be administered across the state. Work with national problem gambling agencies to start a local chapter of the non-profit National Council on Problem Gambling.
  2. Determine how the state will fund gambling addiction services. This report contains a chart of how thirty-four states currently fund these services and shows that states typically allocate 0.25 percent to 2.0 percent of gambling net revenue to gambling addiction services and treatment. New Hampshire may wish to allocate up 2.0 of gambling net revenues to these programs to service potential problem gamblers adequately.
  3. Consider the commitment of the state legislature to overseeing future social impacts. Of the states studied, only eight have committees dedicated to gaming, while only five of those have held hearings on the social impacts of gambling in the state. Many states have also passed self-exclusion legislation, which creates a database of state residents who have asked not to be allowed into casinos; New Hampshire may wish to examine the possibilities in replicating such legislation.
  4. Commit to regular systematic collection of data on problem gamblers in the state, regularly evaluate publicly-funded programs, and track other long-term social impacts of expanded gambling, such as changes in crime rates and