The Prevalence and Types of Gambling Among Undocumented Mexican Immigrants in New York City

  • Sandra L. Momper
  • Vijay Nandi
  • Danielle C. Ompad
  • Jorge Delva
  • Sandro Galea
Original Paper


Objectives To examine the prevalence of gambling and types of gambling activities in a sample of undocumented Mexican immigrants. Design Non-probability cross-sectional design. Setting New York City. Sample The 431 respondents ranged in age from 18 to 80 (mean age 32), 69.7% were male. Results More than half (53.8%) reported gambling in their lifetime and of those most (43.9%) played scratch and win tickets or the lottery. In multivariate analyses men reported gambling more than women [2.13, 95% CI = (1.03, 4.38)]. The odds of gambling in their lifetime were higher among those reporting sending money to family or friends in the home country [2.65, 95% CI = 1.10, 6.38)], and those who reported 1–5 days as compared to no days of poor mental health in the past 30 days [2.44, 95% CI = 1.22, 4.89)]. Conversely, those who reported entering the U.S. to live after 1996 were less likely to report gambling [0.44, 95% CI = (0.22, 0.89)] as compared to those who had lived in the U.S. longer. Conclusion There is a need to further explore both the prevalence and the severity of gambling amongst the growing population of undocumented Mexican immigrants in the U.S.


Undocumented Mexicans Illegal immigrants Minorities Prevalence and types of gambling Problem gambling 



Funding for this project came from the National Institutes of Health award # DA 017642.


  1. Andresen, E. M., Catlin, T. K., Wyrwich, K. W., & Jackson-Thompson, J. (2003). Retest reliability of surveillance questions on health related quality of life. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 57(5), 339–343. doi: 10.1136/jech.57.5.339.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andresen, E. M., Fitch, C. A., McLendon, P. M., & Meyers, A. R. (2000). Reliability and validity of disability questions for US Census 2000. American Journal of Public Health, 90(8), 1297–1299.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anthony, J. C., Vlahov, D., Celentano, D. D., Brown, D., & Vlahov, D. (1991). Self-report interview data for a study of HIV-1 infection among intravenous drug users: Descriptions of methods and preliminary evidence on validity. Journal of Drug Issues, 21, 735–753.Google Scholar
  4. Arciniega, G. M., Tovar-Gamero, Z. G., & Sand, J. (2004, February). Machismo and marianismo: Definitions, instrumentation, and clinical relevance. Workshop Presented at the Relevance of Assessment and Culture in Evaluation Conference, Tempe, AZ.Google Scholar
  5. Cuadrado, M. (1999). A comparison of Hispanic and Anglo calls to a gambling help hotline. Journal of Gambling Studies, 15(1), 71–81. doi: 10.1023/A:1023019129809.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cunningham-Williams, R. M., Cottler, L. B., Compton, W. M., & Spitznagel, E. L. (1998). Taking chances: Problem gamblers and mental health disorders—Results from the St. Louis epidemiologic catchment area study. American Journal of Public Health, 88(7), 1093–1096.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cunningham-Williams, R. M., Ostmann, E. L., Spitznagel, E. L., & Books, S. J. (2007). Racial/ethnic variation in the reliability of DSM-IV pathological gambling disorder. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 195(7), 551–559. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e318093ed13.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gambling in Mexico (2008). Retrieved March 6, 2008, from
  9. Gerstein, D. R., Hoffmann, J. P., Larison, C., Engelman, L., Murphy, S., Palmer, A., et al. (1999). Gambling impact and behavior study (Vol. 1999). National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago.Google Scholar
  10. Gill, T., Dal Grande, E., & Taylor, A. W. (2006). Factors associated with gamblers: A population based cross-sectional study of south Australian adults. Journal of Gambling Studies, 22(2), 143–164. doi: 10.1007/s10899-005-9007-z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hadley, C., Galea, S., Nandi, V., Nandi, A., Lopez, G., Strongarone, S., et al. (2008). Hunger and health among undocumented Mexican migrants in a US urban area. Public Health Nutrition, 11(2), 151–588. doi: 10.1017/S1368980007000407.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kim, S. W., Grant, J. E., Eckert, E. D., Faris, P. L., & Hartman, B. K. (2006). Pathological gambling and mood disorders: Clinical associations and treatment implications. Journal of Affective Disorders, 92, 109–116. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2005.12.040.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kullgren, J. T. (2003). Restrictions on undocumented immigrants’ access to health services: The public health implications of welfare reform. American Journal of Public Health, 93, 1630–1633.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lesieur, H., & Blume, S. (1987). The south oaks gambling screen (SOGS). A new instrument for identification of pathological gamblers. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 144(9), 1184–1188.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Loue, S., Faust, M., & Bunce, A. (2000). The effect of immigration and welfare reform legislation on immigrants’ access to health care, Cuyahoga, and Lorain counties. Journal of Immigrant Health, 2, 23–30. doi: 10.1023/A:1009535322184.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Loue, S., & Mendez, N. (2005). Health and health access among urban immigrants. In S. Galea & D. Vlahov (Eds.), Handbook of urban health: Populations, methods, and practice (pp. 103–126). New York: Springer-Verlag.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Marcelli, E. A., & Lowell, B. L. (2005). Transnational twist: Pecuniary remittances and the socioeconomic integration of authorized and unauthorized Mexican immigrants in Los Angeles County. The International Migration Review, 39(1), 69–102.Google Scholar
  18. Marin, G., Sabogal, F., Marin, B. V. O., Otero-Sabogal, R., & Perez-Stable, E. J. (1987). Development of a short acculturation scale for Hispanics. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 9, 183–205. doi: 10.1177/07399863870092005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Marshall, K. J., Urrutia-Rojas, X., Mas, F. S., & Coggin, C. (2005). Health status and access to health care of documented and undocumented immigrant Latino women. Health Care for Women International, 26, 916–936. doi: 10.1080/07399330500301846.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. McCormick, R., Russo, A., Ramirez, L., & Taber, J. (1984). Affective disorders among pathological gamblers seeking treatment. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 141, 215–218.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Murray, J. B. (1993). Review of research on pathological gambling. Psychological Reports, 72, 791–810.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Nandi, A., Galea, S., Lopez, G., Nandi, V., Strongarone, S., & Ompad, D. C. (2008). Access to and use of health services among undocumented Mexican immigrants in a US Urban area. American Journal of Public Health, 98(2), 1–10.Google Scholar
  23. Pantalon, M. V., Maciejewski, P. K., Desai, R., & Potenza, M. N. (2008). Excitement- seeking gambling in a nationally representative sample of recreational gamblers. Journal of Gambling Studies, 24, 63–78. doi: 10.1007/s10899-007-9075-3.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Passel, J. S. (2005, March). Estimates of the size and characteristics of the undocumented population. Available from the Pew Hispanic Center Web site,
  25. Potenza, M. N., Fiellin, D. A., Heninger, G. R., Rounsaville, B. J., & Mazure, C. M. (2002). Gambling: An addictive behavior with health and primary care implications. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 17, 721–732. doi: 10.1046/j.1525-1497.2002.10812.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Potenza, M. N., Maciejewski, P. K., & Mazure, C. M. (2006a). A gender-based examination of part-year recreational gamblers. Journal of Gambling Studies, 22(1), 41–64. doi: 10.1007/s10899-005-9002-4.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Potenza, M. N., Steinberg, M. A., Wu, R., Rounsaville, B. J., & O’Malley, S. S. (2006b). Characteristics of older adult problem gamblers calling a gambling helpline. Journal of Gambling Studies, 22, 241–254. doi: 10.1007/s10899-006-9013-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Raylu, N., & Oei, T. P. (2004). Role of culture in gambling and problem gambling. Clinical Psychology Review, 23, 1087–1114. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2003.09.005.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Scherrer, J. F., Xian, H., Shah, K. R., Volberg, R., Slutske, W., & Eisen, S. A. (2005). Effects of genes, environment, and lifetime co-occurring disorders on health related quality of life in problem and pathological gamblers. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62, 677–683. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.62.6.677.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Sherbourne, C. D., & Stewart, A. L. (1991). The MOS social support survey. Social Science & Medicine, 32(6), 705–714. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(91)90150-B.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. The Newest New Yorkers 2000 (2004, October). New York: New York City Department of Planning. Retrieved March 1, 2008, from
  32. Thorson, J., Powell, F. C., & Hilt, M. (1994). Epidemiology of gambling and depression in an adult sample. Psychological Reports, 74, 987–994.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Trevorrow, K., & Moore, K. (1998). Association between loneliness, social isolation, and women’s electronic gaming machine gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 14, 263–284. doi: 10.1023/A:1022057609568.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. U.S. Census Bureau. (2003). The foreign born population: 2000. Washington, DC: US Census Bureau.Google Scholar
  35. Vlahov, D., Anthony, J. C., Munoz, A., Margolick, J., Nelson, K. E., Celentano, D. D., et al. (1991). The ALIVE study, a longitudinal study of HIV-1 infection in intravenous drug users: Description of methods and characteristics of participants. NIDA Research Monograph, 109, 75–100.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Volberg, R. A. (1994). The prevalence and demographics of pathological gamblers: Implications for public health. American Journal of Public Health, 84(2), 237–241.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Volberg, R. A. (1996). Prevalence studies of problem gambling in the United States. Journal of Gambling Studies, 12(2), 111–128. doi: 10.1007/BF01539169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Volberg, R. A. (2001). Changes in gambling and problem gambling in Oregon: Results from a replication study, 1997–2000. Northampton, MA: Gemini Research Inc.Google Scholar
  39. Volberg, R. A. (2003). Gambling and problem gambling in Arizona. Report to the Arizona Lottery. Gemini Research. Available from: URL:
  40. Wardman, D., El-Guebaly, N., & Hodgins, D. (2001). Problem and pathological gambling in North American aboriginal populations: A review of the empirical literature. Journal of Gambling Studies, 17(2), 81–100. doi: 10.1023/A:1016699628402.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Welte, J. W., Barnes, G. M., Wieczorek, W. F., & Tidwell, M. (2004a). Gambling participation and pathology in the United States—A sociodemographic analysis using classification trees. Addictive Behaviors, 29, 983–989. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2004.02.047.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Welte, J. W., Barnes, G. M., Wieczorek, W. G., Tidwell, M., & Parker, J. (2002). Gambling participation in the U.S.—Results from a national survey. Journal of Gambling Studies, 18(4), 313–337. doi: 10.1023/A:1021019915591.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Welte, J. W., Barnes, G. M., Wieczorek, W. F., Tidwell, M., & Parker, J. (2004b). Risk factors for pathological gambling. Addictive Behaviors, 29, 323–335. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2003.08.007.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Westermeyer, J., Canive, J., Garrard, J., Thuras, P., & Thompson, J. (2005). Lifetime prevalence of pathological gambling among American Indian and Hispanic American veterans. American Journal of Public Health, 95(5), 860–866. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2003.023770.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sandra L. Momper
    • 1
  • Vijay Nandi
    • 2
  • Danielle C. Ompad
    • 2
  • Jorge Delva
    • 1
    • 3
  • Sandro Galea
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Social WorkUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Center for Urban Epidemiologic StudiesNew York Academy of MedicineNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Institute for Social ResearchUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  4. 4.Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health, Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social ResearchUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

Personalised recommendations