Casino-related deaths in Atlantic City, New Jersey 1982-1986

Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 1990 Jun;11(2):112-23. doi: 10.1097/00000433-199006000-00004.


The first legalized casino-hotel opened in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1978. Annually, more than 30 million people visit the "Gambling Capitol of the East Coast." As a result of this growing influx of people, the Atlantic County Medical Examiner's Office began compiling statistics in 1982 of casino-related deaths. Data on 398 casino-related deaths occurring in 1982-1986 were collected and analyzed: 83% of the total number of fatalities were sudden cardiac deaths. Most of the victims were elderly white retired men who had previously diagnosed medical conditions. Many of the victims' underlying medical problems are of a type known to be associated with compulsive gambling. The majority of deaths occurred during the afternoon hours on weekends in October, January, and May. Of the victims, 86% were from New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. For Atlantic City, a gambling community known to have a relatively high rate of crime and drug-trafficking, only 1% of all deaths were homicides. We speculate that the stress of gambling activities may induce sudden cardiac death. We therefore recommend that communities planning to legalize casino gambling mandate that gambling establishments provide emergency health care services for their patrons.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents / statistics & numerical data
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality
  • Female
  • Gambling*
  • Homicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality*
  • New Jersey / epidemiology
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Stress, Physiological / mortality
  • Substance-Related Disorders / mortality
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Transportation