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Risk of problem gambling linked to wealth of neighborhood


Published January 9, 2014

“Gambling may be viewed as one of the few opportunities for financial advancement, and perhaps provides the lure as a means for easily gaining money.”
John Welte, senior research scientist
Research Institute on Addictions

The poorer the neighborhood, the higher the risk for problem gambling, according to a study from UB’s Research Institute on Addictions (RIA).

Based on representative telephone interviews with nearly 5,000 people, ages 14 to 90, in the United States, the study found that problem gambling was twice as likely in neighborhoods with the highest levels of concentrated poverty compared to neighborhoods with the lowest poverty levels.

The study was published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions.

In areas with the highest “neighborhood disadvantage” — determined by census factors such as the percentage of people who were unemployed, received  public assistance and/or live in poverty — more than 11 percent were problem gamblers, compared to just 5 percent in neighborhoods ranking in the top fifth of economic advantage.

“We found that neighborhood disadvantage had a substantial effect on problem gambling, even after controlling for a person’s socioeconomic status, age, gender or race,” says Grace M. Barnes, RIA senior research scientist and first author. “We also controlled for the convenience of gambling opportunities in these neighborhoods and our findings were unchanged.”

Further, individuals with the lowest socioeconomic status in the poorest neighborhoods were at greatest risk for gambling problems.

Problem gambling was determined by a number of symptoms, including gambling with increasing amounts of money, repeated unsuccessful efforts to control or stop gambling, and preoccupation with gambling activities. Types of gambling included casinos, sports betting, horse or dog racing, lotteries and online gambling, as well as raffles, office pools, charitable gambling, pulltabs and bingo.

The authors speculated on a number of reasons why gambling is more prevalent in poorer neighborhoods. “It may be that people who live in disadvantaged neighborhoods do not see many role models of financial success achieved through conventional means,” says John W. Welte, RIA senior research scientist and a study co-author. “Therefore, gambling may be viewed as one of the few opportunities for financial advancement, and perhaps provides the lure as a means for easily gaining money.”


This confirms what our common sense should tell us: Gov. Cuomo, by promoting the spread of casino gambling, has introduced a special tax on poor people. This is not progressive government.


Joel Rose 

Which is exactly why the Seneca Buffalo casino is located where it is.


Bruce Jackson

Buffalo is 6th in a list of large cities with a higher percentage (31 percent) of lower income residents. Yet, despite the many efforts stop the building of our downtown casino, I see that it is now a reality as I head into the downtown UB campus to work (medical corridor).


It saddens me to see this building among the many better choices and initiatives that this city and UB is striving for downtown.


Robin Difrancesco