Anecdotal information and popular myth have perpetuated claims by gambling opponents that casinos are linked to increased crime rates in communities and organized crime. However, nearly all recent publicly and privately funded studies, as well as the testimony of law enforcement agents from around the country, refute these claims.
There is little documentation of a causal relationship between crime and gaming.
Research conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago for the federal National Gambling Impact Study Commission (NGISC) found that “… the casino effect is not statistically significant for any of the … crime outcome measures.”
In its final report released in June 1999, the NGISC noted that it had attempted to investigate the relationship between crime and legalized gaming through studies by NORC and the National Research Council. These studies concluded that “insufficient data exists to quantify or define that relationship.” A further examination by the General Accounting Office confirmed the NGISC findings.
In 1998, 24 sheriffs and chiefs of police from gaming jurisdictions nationwide submitted to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission Crime and Gaming: Statement of Findings, which reported no connection between gaming and crime in their jurisdictions. Testimony before the commission by other law enforcement and public officials from gaming communities across the country told a similar story and, in fact, pointed to a decrease in crime in their communities.
A March 2000 report by the Public Sector Gaming Study Commission, a nonpartisan organization of state legislators who chair or are members of legislative committees responsible for gaming in their states, stated: “… the majority of the information collected during the past decade indicates there is no link between gambling, particularly casino-style gambling, and crime. The security on the premises of gambling facilities, the multiple layers of regulatory control, and the economic and social benefits that gambling seem to offer to communities are effective deterrents to criminal activity.”
A 1997 study conducted by Peter Reuter at the University of Maryland for the Greater Baltimore Committee concluded the following: “[I]n no case is there any evidence that casinos have had a major impact on the crime rates of towns or metropolitan areas in which they are located.”
A 2000 National Institute of Justice-funded study reported that “the casinos do not appear to have any general or dramatic effect on crime, especially in communities that do not have a high concentrations of casinos.”
A 1997 study by Jeremy Margolis, a former director of the Illinois State Police, assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and Illinois inspector general, found: “[T]here is little valid evidence to support the notion that the presence of casino gaming in a community has any meaningful impact on crime rates.”
Crime statistics show that communities with casinos are as safe as—if not safer than—communities that do not have casinos. According to 2002 data collected from nearly 17,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide and published in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report:
The crime rate in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, which includes crimes committed by the nearly 35 million annual visitors, is lower than many other major American tourist destinations, including Honolulu; Miami; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; New Orleans; Orlando, Fla.; and Phoenix.
Since 1980, Atlantic City, N.J., has experienced a significant drop in cases of violent and street crime—the murder rate fell 54 percent, instances of robbery fell 56 percent and instances of vehicle theft fell 86 percent—despite an increase in gaming opportunities in the area.
Between 1994 and 2002—during which time three casinos were opened—the crime rate in Detroit has dropped by more than one-quarter.
Despite a 35 percent population increase in Joliet, Ill., instances of murder, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny theft and vehicle theft all have decreased.
Orlando, Fla., which attracts 43 million visitors annually to its theme parks and other nongaming entertainment, experienced a 3.8 percent increase in vehicle theft between 1994 and 2002, while the national rate dropped 19 percent.
Those who attribute an increase in crime to the presence of casinos routinely fail to account for the fact that casinos are popular tourist destinations. When this influx of people is properly accounted for, there is no increase in crime rates when comparing pre- and post-casino periods.
A study by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, a state agency that works to improve the criminal justice system in Illinois, pointed to several factors linked to the presence of casinos that work to reduce the area crime rate, including higher levels of pedestrian traffic around casinos, economic prosperity, lower unemployment, and an increase in taxes from casinos for more police and security programs.
The evidence also does not support a conclusion that the gaming industry contributes to white-collar crime.
An August 1999 study, “Casino Gambling and White-Collar Crime: An Examination of the Empirical Evidence,” by Professor Jay Albanese of Virginia Commonwealth University examined the impact of casino gaming on white-collar crime. The most comprehensive study to date on the subject, it reported that the evidence does “not support the claim that casino gaming contributes significantly to trends in embezzlement, forgery, and fraud.”
The study found an overall net decrease in arrests for white-collar crimes in the largest casino jurisdictions from 1988 to 1996, based on an analysis of arrest data in these communities obtained from the FBI crime reporting unit. The study also found, for the crimes of fraud and forgery, casino jurisdictions reported significant decreases in arrests, whereas the nation as a whole experienced considerable increases.