Gambling in Kentucky

A Research Report on the Prevalence of Gambling among Kentucky Residents

 Presented by the Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling August 2009


The Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling (KYCPG) acknowledges and thanks Ronald E. Langley, Ph.D., Director, University of Kentucky Survey Research Center. KYCPG thanks with gratitude KYCPG Board Member Scott Hunt, Ph.D., who chairs KYCPG’s Research Committee. Dr. Hunt led the development of the questionnaire and was the primary author of this report on Gambling in Kentucky.

Executive Summary

Current research indicates gambling behaviors can be described in terms of a continuum similar to alcohol use. Some individuals abstain from gambling completely. Of those who gamble, the majority are “social gamblers” who gamble as a form of entertainment, without experiencing any personal or financial difficulties due to gambling. Other gamblers exhibit behaviors that would seem to put them “at risk” for developing personal or financial difficulties. Still others are “problem gamblers” who have gambled in such a way as to cause personal and financial privations, although these problems may not have led to a lifestyle that is dysfunctional. “Compulsive gamblers,” described as a psychiatric disorder in 1980 by the American Psychiatric Association, experience a number of hardships due to their gambling behaviors: financial ruin, criminal conduct, depression, suicide, and family dysfunctions.

In 2008, the Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling (KYCPG) contracted with the University of Kentucky’s Survey Research Center to conduct a statewide study of Kentuckians’ lifetime gambling behaviors. The study developed a survey instrument consisting of 12 questions derived from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) criteria for compulsive gambling. The Kentucky Survey Research Center used these questions in a random telephone survey of non-institutionalized Kentuckians 18 years of age or older. Calls were made from October 30-December 10, 2008. A total of 2,401 households were contacted. Of these, 195 were ineligible to complete the survey, 1,356 refused to participate or did not complete the survey, and 850 completed the survey. The Council of American Survey Research Organizations (CASRO) response rate was 43.5 percent. The margin of error is approximately ±3.4 percent.

To assess the representativeness of the general adult population in Kentucky, the demographics of the survey respondents were compared with data from the 2000 Census. After the comparison, it was determined weighting based on gender, age and race was necessary to more accurately reflect the adult population of Kentucky. All results are reported using the weighted sample.

Following the lead of extant research, the survey was used to identify “compulsive gamblers,” “problem gamblers,” “social gamblers,” and “non-gamblers.” (Note: In some literature, and in the DSM-IV, compulsive gamblers are known as pathological gamblers.)

The KYCPG 2008 Survey indicates that 55.3 percent of Kentucky adults have gambled in their lifetime. Of all adult males in Kentucky, 61.3 percent indicated that they have gambled in their lifetime, while 49.8 percent of all adult females in Kentucky responded that they have gambled in their lifetime.

The KYCPG 2008 Survey found that Kentucky’s overall prevalence rate of lifetime compulsive gamblers is 0.3 percent of all adult Kentuckians. The overall prevalence rate of lifetime problem gamblers is 1.7 percent. The overall prevalence rate of lifetime at-risk gamblers is 6.2 percent. These results are consistent with previous prevalence studies done in Kentucky and nationally.

Based on the KYCPG 2008 survey results, we estimate that there are about 1,689,058 Kentucky adults who have gambled. Further, we estimate that there are nearly 190,000 at-risk gamblers, more than 50,000 problem gamblers, and more than 9,000 compulsive gamblers. We estimate that more than 250,000 Kentucky adults may have had some problem with their gambling in their lifetime.

In 2003, the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission (LRC) issued Report 316, Compulsive Gambling in Kentucky. It collected past-year data through a telephone survey similar to the collection method used in this report. LRC 316 reported 5.6 percent at-risk gamblers, 0.7 percent problem gamblers, and 0.5 percent compulsive gamblers. LRC 316 estimated past-year figures as 20,000 problem gamblers and 15,000 compulsive gamblers.

Data from the 2008 survey indicates, among gamblers, the following groups are at relatively higher risk to have some manifestation of problem or compulsive gambling:

• males

• young adults 18-24 years of age

• Blacks and other racial minorities

• those who have never married

• those who have been divorced or who are separated

• employed adults

• individuals in residing in households with incomes of $25,000 or less.

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