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Study: Problem gambling risk higher in low-income areas

January 6, 2014
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Low-income neighborhoods appear to have the greatest prevalence of problem gambling, a study from the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions indicates.

The study, involving interviews of nearly 5,000 individuals ages 14 to 90, found that in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods, more than 11% of residents were problem gamblers. This compared with a 5% prevalence rate of problem gambling in neighborhoods that ranked in the top one-fifth of communities based on economic advantage. Neighborhoods were categorized based on factors such as prevalence of unemployment, public assistance and individuals living in poverty.

Researchers also found that poor-neighborhood dwellers with the worst socioeconomic status were the individuals most susceptible to problem gambling.

Discussing possible reasons for higher rates of problem gambling in poorer communities, study co-author and Research Institute senior research scientist John W. Welte, PhD, said, “It may be that people who live in disadvantaged neighborhoods do not see many role models of financial success achieved through conventional means. 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.”

Results of this study were published last June in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions.