News Articles

Video poker survey indicates growing problem across S.C.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP)–The most comprehensive study of
video poker players in South Carolina to date shows that 20
percent could be classified as problem gamblers, and the
addiction to the machines will likely grow since most of
players have just started.
The survey, conducted by Frank Quinn, clinical director
of Carolina Psychiatric Services of Columbia, and Cathy
Pike, assistant professor of social work at the University
of South Carolina, gathered information in November from all
46 counties in the state. Data was collected from 553 video
poker players in casinos, convenience stores, restaurants,
bars and other sites where more than 31,000 gaming devices
are located.
Is video poker addictive? “Preliminary findings suggest
that approximately one in five players is a problem
gambler,” Quinn said. His and Pike’s study revealed that
38.6 percent of the players play two or more times per week.
Of these, 13 percent reported playing four or more times per
week. More than one quarter of those surveyed said they have
played for five or more hours at one time.
“The longer people play, the more likely they are to
get hooked,” Quinn stressed.
Perhaps most disturbing for gambling opponents is that
the study indicates the number of problem gamblers may be on
the rise. While the greatest number of respondents, 41.7
percent, claimed they had played video gaming devices for
only one year, those who had been playing for four years
showed significantly more signs of problem gambling.
“This suggests the possibility that South Carolina has
only begun to bear the consequences of video gaming,” Quinn
How does it affect people? Among their survey’s
— 33 percent said they have spent the last dollar in
their pockets while playing video poker machines.
— 19 percent admitted they have borrowed money from
friends and family to play.
— 18 percent said they have wished they could stop
— 14 percent reported problems with loved ones because
of the habit.
— 5 percent have considered suicide because of their
Who’s playing? Sixty-two percent of the respondents
were males. About two-thirds of video poker players were
white, and about 29 percent were African American.
Nearly half of the respondents reported that their
educational level was 12 years or less, while about half had
some post-secondary education. About 48 percent have annual
incomes of less than $20,000, while about 49 percent earn
annual incomes ranging from $20,000 to $60,000.
What’s being done? Regulation of video gaming is a
problem within South Carolina, the report noted. Substantial
proportions of players have been offered illegal inducements
to encourage them to play longer or more often.
Approximately 78 percent of the gamblers reported one
or more violations of state laws. Almost 47 percent reported
that alcohol was served on the site; 43 percent cited large
jackpots; free or discounted food was offered to 29 percent;
and 10 percent indicated “sexual companionship” was offered.
In spite of laws setting limits on total winnings of
$125 and losses of $50 per sitting, the survey found 69
percent of the players had won more and 68.9 percent had
lost more.
What do these findings mean? The researchers said the
data provides four major indications about video gambling in
South Carolina: a substantial number of respondents play
video gaming devices on a regular basis; about 20 percent
are problem gamblers; respondents who have played for four
years have more problem gambling signs; and regulation is a
“Taken together,” Quinn and Pike concluded, “these four
major indications suggest that the current involvement of
players of video gaming devices and their levels of problem
gambling are substantial. Attempts to regulate gambling on
video gaming devices by setting limits for total legal
winnings and losses per sitting have been unsuccessful. The
future levels of problem video device gambling that will be
sanctioned and tolerated within South Carolina depend on the
wisdom of decisions that are made in the present.”
In other statistics gleaned from the study and from the
National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling:
— There are four poker machines for every church in
South Carolina. With more than 31,000 machines, the state
has a poker machine for every square mile.
— An estimated 100,000 South Carolina families have a
gambling problem.
— South Carolina is a gambling mecca; the gambling
industry made nearly $3 billion last year in the state,
growing more than 40 percent.
— In Jasper County, a 10-day-old baby died in a
sweltering car while her mother spent seven hours playing a
— A woman in Whitmire lost $41,000 — money from her
late husband’s life insurance and her daughter’s education
— Nearly one-third of all players have gambled down to
the last dollar in their pockets. That includes money for
food, medicine and clothes.
— One out of every 20 players in South Carolina has
considered suicide because of video poker.
— The gambling industry claims to create jobs and
economic growth, but studies show that for every dollar
produced for a regional economy, three dollars are lost
because of the economic and social costs.

    About the Author

  • Todd Deaton