Casino Gambling in Puerto Rico

As modern societies move from agrarian and manufacturing to service industries, workers find themselves increasingly functioning in work environments that involve little or no physical exertion or mental stimulation.  As more leisure time becomes available, people turn to extreme diversions to satisfy their physical and mental needs.  Certainly, casino gambling fits the bill for providing emotional and mental excitement.

The concept of legal gambling is controversial.  Gambling is a game of chance, but the odds are stacked in that gamblers will lose on the average.  But on the average does not mean all of the time, so it is that, now and then, some lucky person comes out ahead.  Gambling is considered to be immoral for several of reasons: it serves no economically productive purpose, it corrupts the moral fiber of society and it is often manipulated by an entire underclass of lumpenproletariats to serve their own greed.  Nevertheless, it was clear that making gambling illegal did not seem to eradicate the practice.

Following the precept 'If you can't beat them, you might as well as join them,' governments have found it more profitable and equitable to legalize gambling.  Gambling can now be officially licensed, monitored and taxed.  While this overcomes the economic and enforcement barriers, it does not adequately address the moral responsibility of the state for it still appears immoral to promote gambling in the populace.  Therefore, there are now situations in which legal gambling exists, but advertising of such is forbidden.  In this regard, the most often cited legal case is the Posadas case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Puerto Rican law which barred advertising of casino gambling to the public of Puerto Rico.

The greatest criticism about legal gambling is the potential for addictive or compulsive gambling.  Gamblers Anonymous has twenty questions that it asks new members to answer to help them decide if they have a gambling problem. The questions have less to do with the frequency of gambling or the amount of bets.  These questions are: 

  1. Did you ever lose time from work due to gambling?
  2. Has gambling ever made your home life unhappy?
  3. Did gambling affect your reputation?
  4. Have you ever felt remorse after gambling?
  5. Did you ever gamble to get money with which to pay debts or otherwise solve financial difficulties?
  6. Did gambling cause a decrease in your ambition or efficiency?
  7. After losing, did you feel you must return as soon as possible and win back your losses?
  8. After a win, did you have a strong urge to return and win more?
  9. Did you often gamble until your last dollar was gone?
  10. Did you ever borrow to finance your gambling?
  11. Have you ever sold anything to finance gambling?
  12. Were you reluctant to use "gambling money" for normal expenditures?
  13. Did gambling make you careless about the welfare of your family?
  14. Did you ever gamble longer that you planned?
  15. Have you ever gambled to escape worry or trouble?
  16. Have you ever committed, or considered committing, an illegal act to finance our gambling?
  17. Did gambling cause you to have difficulty sleeping?
  18. Do arguments, disappointments, or frustrations create within you an urge to gamble?
  19. Did you have an urge to celebrate good fortune by a few hours of gambling?
  20. Have you ever considered self-destruction as a result of your gambling?

According to Gamblers Anonymous, seven or more "yes" answers indicates a gambling problem.  The identified problems of addictive or compulsive gambling includes:

Of course, if addictive or compulsive gambling is pervasive among all gamblers, the case would have been closed.  However, the general opinion seems to be that gambling in moderation is an acceptable form of entertainment.

We will now cite some survey data from the TGI Puerto Rico study.  This is a survey of 7,549 persons 12 years or old conducted by MediaFax during 2000-2001 in Puerto Rico.  According to the TGI Puerto Rico study, 10.3% of the survey respondents said that they had visited a casino in the last 12 months.

In the next chart, we show the frequency of visits by these casino gamblers.  At least half of these people are very infrequent (1-2 times per year) gamblers.  Less than 10% of the gamblers (or less than 1% of the entire population) visit 11 or more times in the last 12 months, which puts a cap on the number of potential addictive/compulsive gamblers. 

In the next chart, we show the incidence of casino gambling by age and sex.  Casino gambling is taken up mostly by persons between 18 and 64 years old.  The image of the little old retiree lady who spends all day at the slot machine seems less applicable in Puerto Rico.

In the next chart, we show the incidence of casino gambling by annual household income.  The incidence increases as a direct function of the dollar amount.  Casino gambling has house odds which are regulated by rules, such that gamblers will expect to lose money on the average.  Such being the case, the transaction is really one in which the average gambler is paying for entertainment.  Therefore, disposable income (that is, excess income after meeting essentials such as food and rent) will be a major determinant of participation in casino gambling.

Many major casinos in Puerto Rico are located in the high-end tourist hotels, which cater to a specific class of clientele.  As a point of history, the Hilton Hotel Corporation was the first legitimate company to move into Puerto Rico, with the Caribe Hilton in the late 50's.  When the founder Conrad Hilton realized that 80% of the profits of his entire hotel empire came from the Caribe Hilton and the Habana Hilton in Cuba, the Hilton Corporation became to expand casino properties worldwide.  

The TGI Puerto Rico study also contains a number of attitudinal statements.  We find that casino gamblers are more apt to agree with statements such as:

and less likely to agree with statements such as:

 (posted by Roland Soong, 1/01/2002)

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