Sustained Outrage

Upsetting upsets: Football and domestic violence

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Many of us have heard the oft-repeated canard that Superbowl Sunday is the worst day of the year in terms of domestic violence. (More people have money riding on the game, and/or have been drinking, and if the wrong team wins, tempers flare and violence ensues, goes the conventional wisdom.) This conclusion hasn’t held up to closer scrutiny, and I don’t think very many people put much stock in it these days.

But what does cause a spike in domestic violence, according to a new academic study titled Family Violence and Football, is an upset in the NFL. Using Las Vegas spreads as an indicator of the expected outcome, economists David Card of the University of California Berkeley and Gordon B. Dahl of the University of California San Diego tracked reported incidents of family violence in areas loyal to a particular team. When the hometown favorite lost unexpectedly, reports of domestic violence went up 8 percent. And particularly wrenching losses, like in a playoff game, made it worse.

Sadly, the inverse does not seem to be true: unexpected wins do not decrease the reports of domestic violence significantly, the study found.

(While the Superbowl Sunday brutality may be a myth, the study notes that domestic violence does go up on holidays: Christmas Day +17 percent, Thanksgiving +22 percent, Memorial Day +30 percent, New Year’s Day +19 percent, New Year’s Eve +32 percent, and July 4th +28 percent.)

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So, does gambling pay?

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The answer appears to be yes, and no.

Two political science professors have analyzed legalized gambling revenue and public spending in West Virginina in the most recent issue of “The West Virginia Public Affairs Reporter,” published by the  Institute for Public Affairs at WVU’s Politial Science Department.

In their report, “Counting the Chips: The Policy Consequences of Legalized Gambling in West Virginia”, professors Patrick A. Pierce and Richard A. Brisbin Jr., found:

— State and local governments have certainly become more dependent legalized gambling revenue. West Virginia received $25.4 million in gambling revenue in 1991, compared to $639.2 million in 2007.
— Municipal and county governments began receiving legalized gambling revenue in2003, when it amounted to $3.4 million. In 2007, cities and counties received $7.8 million.
Legalized gambling makes a small contribution to relatively low-wage job creation in the state.
— Social costs and problem gambling are difficult to measure, but an earlier study found that problem and pathological gambling was three to four times as common among people living closer than 50 miles from a casino compared to those living farther away. Practically every West Virginian lives within 50 miles of a video lottery outlet and five of the 10 largest cities are within 50 miles of a racetrack with electronic gaming.

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