Where there is money, there are bound to be crooks – or that’s the way the Hollywood heist movies tell it. So what better breeding ground for crime than Atlantic City or Las Vegas, where the casino is king and there’s copious cash? For a closer look at the connection between gambling and crime, we waded through the FBI’s arrest data and found which gambling cities topped the charts for crime and which misdeeds occurred most often. But, before you bet on crime and casinos being correlated, take a look at the data for yourself – some of your assumptions may tumble like a house of cards.
When considering crime in the top five gambling cities, one point is unmistakable: Atlantic City is no picnic with its No. 1 spot for overall crime per 100k and the same ranking for both robbery and assault. However, given that it was the location of the first ever nationwide mafia meeting (attended by the likes of Al Capone) in 1929 and the heart of the hit HBO show “Boardwalk Empire,” that may come as no surprise. Only one crime category has a different top contender. The Big Easy is almost five times as sinful as Sin City when it comes to murder. New Orleans also has more than twice as many murders per 100k as second-place Atlantic City.
In cities where so much money is changing hands, it’s no wonder that larceny (theft) and burglary make up such a substantial portion of infractions. Those two categories of crime alone account for 87.5% of all arrests in Biloxi, and more than 65% in the other top five cities. However, that percentage may be in line with current trends that show while crime overall is on the decline, larceny rates rose more than 9% over five years for arrestees over age 18.
Other crimes, though relatively small in volume, pop up disproportionately in certain cities. Motor vehicle theft is especially low in Atlantic City, where it makes up just 2% of all crime. Although there may be many factors for the city, its lack of room for cars is a good bet; Atlantic City is by far the smallest (10.75 square miles) of the casino sites. Las Vegas, on the other hand, bears the dubious distinction of having more than three times as many rape arrests as cities outside Nevada; its in-state neighbor, Reno, has the highest percentage of rapes.
So what’s the real connection between casinos and crime? The reality is that of the five gambling cities we explored, only two made the list of the 100 most dangerous cities American cities overall: Atlantic City at No. 21 and New Orleans at No. 70. Still searching for the type of excitement only offered by the mixture of criminal masterminds and casinos? Your best bet is probably renting “Ocean’s Eleven” and settling in with some popcorn because you’re more likely to see a crime committed in Gary, Indiana, than Las Vegas, Nevada.
We selected some gambling-related cities, compared them using the FBI’s 2014 crime data, and visualized the results.
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