Do more casinos mean more crime?

Study connects gambling, crime

Published On: Feb 02 2012 03:21:59 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 02 2012 11:43:57 PM EST
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COCONUT CREEK, Fla. -

Local 10 already debunked the statement made by casino advocates that the jobs created through the expansion of gambling would reduce what is said to be crime linked to unemployment. 

Now, Local 10 wanted to look at the claims made by critics of casino gambling who say more casinos mean more crime in our neighborhoods. 

The recently released study by the group No Casinos is just one of many over the past decade that point to an increase in crime related to gambling. 

There have been so many that Baylor University professor Earl Grinols decided to take up the issue. 

Believing most studies on the issue of crime and casinos to be "agenda-driven, conducted or funded by either pro-gambling or law enforcement organizations," Grinols launched a comprehensive research project. 

While at the University of Illinois, he reviewed U.S. Census data and FBI Uniform Crime Reporting statistics for every county in the nation over 20 years. His start point was 1977, before casinos were in just about all of our back yards. 

Grinols told Local 10's Christina Vazquez the study wasn't sponsored or funded by any group or individual. The report titled "Casinos, Crime, and Community Costs," was published in 2006 and found that crime in local communities goes up by 8 percent starting in the three to four years after the introduction of a casino. Click here to read the study. 

"We find that crime increases over time in casino counties, and that casinos do not just shift crime from neighboring regions, but create crime. We estimate the crime-related social costs in casino counties at approximately $75 per adult per year," Grinols said. 

Over the phone, Grinols said he found it is not a question of if casinos create crime but to what degree, and how best to extrapolate that information from crime reports. 

Consider the term "Pathological Gambling" as defined by the American Psychiatric Association's Fourth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: The definition outlines 10 criteria; display five or more and you'd be considered a textbook pathological gambler. 

No. 8 on the list reads, "Has committed illegal acts such as forgery, fraud, theft, or embezzlement to finance gambling." 

Grinols points out that it would appear it is pretty safe to assume casino gambling causes crime if committing a crime is part of the criteria used to determine if someone is a pathological gambler. 

Local 10 tried checking local crime data to see if it could find a pattern here. 

A couple of obstacles stand in the way. First, many of the larger casinos are on tribal land, and so crime data is collected by tribal police who don't need to report or release their findings in the same way U.S. law enforcement does. 

The bigger issue, however, is that individual cities and counties don't keep track of which property crimes may have been committed in relation to gambling. 

Miami-Dade police told Local 10 they just don't have a way to catalogue the motivation behind why someone commits a property crime or a violent crime. 

"It is very difficult to measure casino crime in the broader sense,” Broward Sheriff’s Office spokesman Jim Leljedal said. “The facilities have excellent security and are safe places to be.  On the other hand, there is no doubt that there are gambling addicts who turn to crime to get gambling money, but we don’t measure motive in our crime stats for fraud, robbery, theft, burglary, etc., so there is no way to gauge the impact of gambling overall."

Local 10 did check in with Coconut Creek on the same day the city was celebrating the reopening of an expanded Seminole Casino in Coconut Creek

The city representative said crime has not gone up since the facility opened there in 2000. Even when you crunch the numbers, their population grew by over 20 percent since 2000, and the casino itself hosts thousands of visitors a day, which also has an impact on the percentage of property crime in a community. 

In his national study, Grinols stated it is those kinds of variables he accounted for. But on a local level, not a single law enforcement agency Local 10 spoke with said they were convinced casinos create crime in a way that they can quantitatively measure.