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Casinos: America's New Senior Centers

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SOURCE Institute for American Values

NEW YORK, Feb. 24, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Older Americans, once content with church bingo, are flocking to casinos to play the slots.  Since the mid-1970s, the number of seniors visiting casinos has more than doubled, a rate surpassing other age groups.  In 2012, more than half of people visiting a casino were age fifty or older. 

The growing popularity of casino gambling among older adults is contributing to increases in problem gambling among the nation's aging population, according to Seniors in Casino Land, a newly released report by Amy Ziettlow, an affiliate scholar at the Institute for American Values, a New York City think tank.   

Problem gambling among vulnerable older women is strongly linked to the proliferation of the modern slot-machine-dominated casino.

"The new face of problem gambling in America is a senior woman," according to research cited in the report. 

The report is based on Ziettlow's fieldwork and interviews with older casino gamblers.

Among its findings: 

  • Slots are favored by over seventy-five percent of older Americans.
  • Slots and similar non-strategic electronic gambling devices rank as the most highly addictive and highly profitable of all gambling games.
  • Slots use light, sound, and repetitive motion to induce a hypnotic trance that makes time and money evaporate.  Players talk of disappearing into the machine. 
  • Slot machines are linked to severe addiction among older women gamblers. Women tend to gamble for escape from emotional pain and the burdens of caregiving rather than for the thrill of competition or the quest for big wins.
  • Slot machines are harmful to the aging brain.  The overload of stimuli from the machines – pulsating light and engineered sound effects - along with the lack of natural light in the casino, can contribute to disorientation, mental confusion and diminished cognitive function.   People on medication or suffering from memory problems are especially vulnerable to such harms.
  • Slot machines exploit the emotional needs of older people.  For lonely, bored, and socially isolated seniors, slot machines and similar electronic devices provide a temporary form of escape. 

To read the report:
To read Ziettlow's op-ed in The Tampa Tribune:
About Amy Ziettlow:
More on IAV at:

Amy Ziettlow will be speaking at a public forum at Stetson University College of Law on Thursday, February 27, 12:00 pm.  The address: 1700 N Tampa St, Tampa, FL 33602

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