|According to a piece in the Kansas City Star, much of the published research into the economic costs of compulsive gambling has ‘deep flaws’ and may overstate the problem.|
The newspaper reported that this is the conclusion of a 14-page research paper commissioned and financed by the American Gaming Association as part of its tenth anniversary white paper series. The research was conducted by Douglas Walker, a professor of economics at the College Of Charleston, and found that there were four areas where current research falls short.
These four areas include the effects and costs of co-morbidity or co-existing disorders, findings based on questionable survey data gathered from gamblers, measurements of government costs related to problem gambling and estimates of societal effects if legalised gambling had not come along.
“Given that many pathological gamblers exhibit other disorders, it is difficult if not impossible to accurately estimate the social costs attributable specifically to pathological gambling,” said Walker regarding the first point.
“As an example, consider a pathological gambler who is also a drug addict and engages in behaviour resulting in social costs of $5,000. What proportion of the cost should be attributed to the gambling disorder and what proportion to drug use?”
Walker cited a 2005 study that estimated that pathological gamblers suffer unusually high incidences of other disorders including 73.2 percent with alcohol abuse, 38.1 percent with drug abuse and 41.3 percent with anxiety disorders. As a result, Walker stated that many studies reach premature conclusions and ‘attribute all of the costs to gambling’.
“These are complex issues that don’t have easy answers but the methodological issues outlined in this paper must be addressed by researchers in order for policymakers and voters to have a meaningful debate about social costs attributable to gambling,” said Frank Fahrenkopf Jr, President and Chief Executive for the American Gaming Association.