Evaluating Crime Attributable to Casinos in the U.S.: A Closer Look at Grinols and Mustard’s “Casinos, Crime, and Community Costs”

Main Article Content

Douglas M Walker


This paper examines problems in studying the relationship between casinos and crime, with a focus on a recently published, influential study (Grinols and Mustard 2006) which concluded that casinos cause a significant amount of county-level crime in the U.S. Five key issues are examined. First, the most serious problem with their analysis is that it uses a crime rate that excludes the visiting population at risk, thereby overstating the crime rate in casino counties. Second, the crime data used are potentially inaccurate. Third, the results may suffer from a bias caused by counties self-selecting into the “casino county” category. Fourth, the dummy variables used to account for casinos do not allow the authors to isolate the crime effect caused by casinos. Finally, the authors make conclusions that are not supported by their data, analysis, and results. An examination of these issues is important because it will shed additional light on the debate over the effects of casinos, and provides valuable information for subsequent researchers who study the casino-crime relationship.I am grateful to Jay Albanese, Bill Eadington, David Forrest, Mark Nichols, Don Ross, and Richard Thalheimer for helpful comments and suggestions, and especially to John Jackson and Ben Scafidi for helpful discussions on this paper. I am responsible for the content and any errors.

Article Details



Albanese J. 1985. The effect of casino gambling on crime. Federal Probation 48: 39-44.

Albanese J. 1999. Criminal Justice. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

American Psychiatric Association (APA). 1994. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4e (DSM-IV). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Betsinger SL. 2005. The relationship between gambling and county-level crime. University of Maryland thesis.

Boggs SL. 1965. Urban crime patterns. American Sociological Review 30: 899-908.

Curran D, Scarpitti F. 1991. Crime in Atlantic City: Do casinos make a difference? Deviant Behavior 12: 431-449.

Felson M. 2000. The routine activity approach as a general crime theory, pp. 205-216 in Simson SS, ed. Of Crime and Criminality. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Fink SC, Marco AC, Rork JC. 2004. Lotto nothing? The budgetary impact of state lotteries. Applied Economics 36: 2357-2367.

Giacopassi D. 1995. An analysis of the Maryland Report, “The House Never Loses and Maryland Cannot Win…” University of Memphis manuscript.

GLS Research. 2005. Las Vegas Visitor Profile: 2005 Annual Report. Online at http://www.lvcva.com/press/statistics-facts/visitor-stats.jsp. Accessed March 10, 2007.

Grinols EL, Mustard DB. 2001. Measuring industry externalities: The curious case of casinos and crime. Paper posted on the website of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling. http://www.ncalg.org/. Accessed March 10, 2007. [This is referred to as GM 2001 in the paper.]

Grinols EL, Mustard DB. 2006. Casinos, crime, and community costs. The Review of Economics and Statistics 88(1): 28-45. [This is referred to as GM 2006 in the paper.]

Grinols EL, Mustard DB. 2008a. Correctly critiquing casino-crime causality. Econ Journal Watch 5(1): 21-31. Online at http://www.econjournalwatch.org.

Grinols EL, Mustard DB. 2008b. Connecting casinos and crime: More corrections of Walker. Econ Journal Watch 5(2): 156-162. Online at http://www.econjournalwatch.org.

Grinols EL, Mustard DB, Dilley CH. 1999. Casinos and crime. University of Illinois working paper. Copy available from the author. (June) [This is referred to as GM 1999 in the paper.]

Grinols EL, Rose JS. 2007. Another voice: Laudatory report misstates conclusions on gambling. Buffalo News. (March 13)

Heckman JJ. 1979. Sample selection bias as a specification error. Econometrica 47(1): 364-369.

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. 2006. 2006 Las Vegas Year-to-Date Executive Summary. Online at http://www.lvcva.com/press/statistics-facts/. Accessed March 10, 2007.

Lott JR, Whitley J. 2003. Measurement error in county-level UCR data. Journal of Quantitative Criminology 19(2): 185-198.

Maltz, MD. 1999. Bridging gaps in police crime data. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Maltz, MD, Targonski J. 2002. A note on the use of county-level UCR data. Journal of Quantiative Criminology 18(3): 294-318.

Maltz, MD, Targonski J. 2003. Measurement and other errors in county-level UCR data: A reply to Lott and Whitley. Journal of Quantitative Criminology 19(2): 199-206.

Miller T, Cohen M, Wiersema B. 1996. Victim costs & consequences: A new look. U.S. Department of Justice.

Miller WJ, Schwartz MD. 1998. Casino gambling and street crime. Annals of the American Academy of Political & Social Science 556: 124-137.

Monahan JJ. 2007. Economists fuel casino debate: Charges of bias leveled as barbs are traded. Worcester Telegram & Gazette. (28 October) Online at http://www.telegram.com.

Morin R. 2006. Casinos and crime: The luck runs out. Washington Post. (11 May) Online at http://www.washington post.com.

Morse EA, Goss EP. 2007. Governing Fortune: Casino Gambling in America. University of Michigan Press.

Nettler, G. 1984. Explaining Crime 3rd ed. New York, NW: McGraw-Hill.

PolicyAnalytics. 2006. A benefit-cost analysis of Indiana’s riverboat casinos for FY 2005: A report to the Indiana Legislative Council and the Indiana Gaming Commission. (17 January)

Reese WS. 2008. Casinos, hotels, and crime. West Virginia University working paper. Available from the author. (July)

Stitt BG, Nichols M, Giacopassi D. 2003. Does the presence of casinos increase crime? An examination of casino and control communities. Crime & Delinquency 49(2): 253-284.

Stokowski P. 1996. Crime patterns and gaming development in rural Colorado. Journal of Travel Research 34: 63-69.

Vitagliano E. 2006. Casinos and crime: A sour bet. American Family Association Journal. (August) Online at http://afajournal.org/2006/august/0806casinos.html.

Yarbrough B. 2006. Casinos increase crime. Hesperia Star (6 June), online at http://www.hesperiastar.com/story.php?id=1570_0_1_0_C.

Walker DM. 2007. The Economics of Casino Gambling. New York, NY: Springer.

Walker DM. 2008a. Do casinos really cause crime? Econ Journal Watch 5(1): 4-20. Online at http://www.econjournalwatch.org.

Walker DM. 2008b. The diluted economics of casinos and crime: A rejoinder to Grinols and Mustard’s reply. Econ Journal Watch 5(2): 148-155. Online at http://www.econjournalwatch. org.

Walker DM. 2008c. Final comments on the casinos and crime Econ Journal Watch exchange. College of Charleston working paper. Available from the author.

Walker DM, Jackson JD. 2008. Do U.S. gambling industries cannibalize each other? Public Finance Review 36(3): 308-333.