The National Opinion Research Center recently reported that more than 5 million Americans suffer from pathological gambling addiction and more than 15 million more are at the risk of developing problems associated with the gaming industry.
It also suggested that more than 2.5 million Americans are "pathological" gamblers, a disorder named in 1994 by the American Psychiatric Association, and that 3 million are "problem" gamblers.
The release of the nationwide survey coincided with National Gambling Impact Study Commission meetings in Washington earlier this month to work on a final report assessing the social impacts of gambling. Commission Chairman Kay James expressed her concerns, saying, "Everybody on the commission has really struggled with this. How do you estimate the social cost? It's very difficult to do. At best, I think what we can say at this point is we really need more research; we need more information."
Advocates of legalized gambling meanwhile suggest that the report treats the subject unfairly by sensationalizing the issue. Other supporters of legal gaming argued that that the annual costs of gambling paled in comparison to those of other social problems, such as mental illness and alcoholism.
Supporters of stricter gambling legislation have focused on gambling addictions for years, and lawmakers are following suit in their pursuit of prohibiting Internet gambling. Naturally, Arizona Senator Jon Kyl who's "Internet Gambling Prohibition Act" was reintroduced to the Senate last week, is siting gambling addiction as a key reason to ban online wagering. In a recent statement, Kyl explained, "Internet gambling enhances the addictive nature of gambling because it is so easy to do: you don't have to travel; you can just log on to your computer."
The same sentiment was voiced by Bernie Horn, Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gaming, in his testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime. "The Internet not only makes highly addictive forms of gambling easily accessible to everyone, it magnifies the potential destructiveness of the addiction," Horn told the panel. "Because of the privacy of an individual and his/her computer terminal, addicts can destroy themselves without anyone ever having the chance to stop them."
University of Illinois Professor John Kindt, in an interview with ABC's "Nightline," went as far as to call Internet gaming the "crack cocaine of creating new pathological gamblers."
A similar report released by the National Research Council on gambling patterns concludes that pathological gambling is an increasingly serious problem affecting more Americans. The report supports the continuation of research on the issue.