Expert Commentary

Explaining the international spread of casino gambling

2010 study by the University of Southern Mississippi on socioeconomic factors influencing legalization of casinos globally.

Over the past 50 years, many nations have legalized casino gambling. Thousands of casinos are now located worldwide, in nearly every populated region of the globe. The licensing of such businesses is sometimes a local or regional affair, but larger national and global patterns may also be discernible.

A 2010 study by the University of Southern Mississippi published in the Journal of Gambling Studies, “Diffusion of an Economic Development Policy Innovation: Explaining the International Spread of Casino Gambling,” tested five hypotheses about conditions that make countries more likely to legalize casino gambling. The study examined 13 countries and analyzed whether or not there was a relationship between legalization and high GDP per capita, high budget deficits, high unemployment, an emphasis on tourism or national religiosity.

The study’s findings include:

  • For every one percentage point increase in national unemployment, the odds of casino gambling legalization increased by 98.1%.
  • For every one percentage point increase in the level of national religious service attendance, the odds of legalization decrease by 10.9%.
  • There was a 22.3% increase in the likelihood of legalization for each $1,000 increase in per capita GDP.
  • A 5% point increase in the national importance of “tourism” results in an increase of 45.4% in the odds of legalization.
  • There was no statistical evidence that nations experiencing fiscal problems and budget deficits were more likely to legalize casinos.

The study’s author concludes that only unemployment and religion were found to have a “significant relationship” with how countries made casino-related decisions, though tourism and income levels did indeed show statistical correlations. The idea that fiscal stress prompts the licensing of casinos, the author notes, “is mentioned in virtually every academic and popular press article on gambling legalization.” The fact that statistical analysis does not back this up should prompt further research, the study suggests.

Tags: consumer affairs, religion, gambling, tourism