Tag Archives: social costs

Costs of Gambling – comprehensive study

The following study is available at Casino Watch, a US website providing resources and research on the casino industry in North America. (You may also be interested in the Oregon site “PACT: People Against a Casino Town.”) The following study was conducted in the 1990s at the University of Illinois:

“Business Profitability Versus Social Profitability: Evaluating Industries with Externalities, The Case of the Casino Industry”

By Earl L. Grinols and David B. Mustard
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Casino gambling is a social issue, because in addition to the direct benefits to those who own and use casinos, positive and negative externalities are reaped and borne by those who do not gamble. To correctly assess the total economic impact of casinos, one must distinguish between business profitability and social profitability. This paper provides the most comprehensive framework for addressing the theoretical cost-benefit issues of casinos by grounding cost-benefits analysis on household utility. It also discusses the current state of knowledge about the estimates of both the positive and negative externalities generated by casinos. Last, it corrects many prevalent errors in the debate over the economics of casino gambling.


At the conclusion of its investigation, the commission recommended a national moratorium on the expansion of gambling and more study of gambling’s effects, costs and benefits, before making further decisions about it.

Many studies pay a great deal of attention, for example, to estimating the number of direct and indirect jobs that casinos create and to tallying the taxes casinos pay, but do not explain the social value of an additional job or calculate the lost taxes of competing non-casino businesses.

For example, the effect of casino gambling on firm profits should be summed over all firms, not just casinos. The increased profits of the casinos should be netted against lost profits of other firms that compete for consumer spending.

If casinos temporarily reduced unemployment faster than it would have fallen otherwise, this transitory effect could correctly be counted as a benefit of casinos. However, we know of no study that has made this case.

Although casino profits and taxes are highly visible, they are invalid measures of social benefits because they do not adjust for the entire economy for the lost profits and taxes of competing businesses.

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