astime. Over 60 millionAmericans make some sort of wager every day.1 When compared to otherrecreations (in billions of dollars) in 1990, gambling institutions made2.2 more than magazine sales, 8.3 more than book sales, 20.9 more thantheaters, and a whopping 21.8 more than movies.2 This number has increasedto this high level because of the growth in the amount of legalizedgambling establishments and the accessibility to these establishments, bothof which increases the number of gamblers. The compulsive or pathologicalgambler affects society most.
According to Stuart Winston, The compulsive gambler is the backbone ofgambling.
Without the compulsive gambler, there would be no Las Vegas, noOff Track Wagering. Two thirds of the race tracks in America would close.
The attendance of sporting events would drop 50%, and T.V. wouldn’t botherwith sports beyond championship events.
The compulsive gambler bets a piece of his life everyday, and a piece ofhis family’s. The other 45 million people who gamble are having fun.(Out ofthe 60 million who gamble every day)3 These gamblers often resort to crimeto pay off their debts and anger.
Even though legalized gambling haschanged through time, and has been accepted in America today, it remainsdetrimental to society, and should not be legal anywhere. American gamblingcan be traced back to the early years of the nation.
Different forms of gambling, such as lotteries, remained popular until1890, when U.S. jurisdiction made lotteries and all other forms of gamblingillegal by direct prohibition.4 Gambling had become more and more a lowlife thing to do. These low lifes, called rowdies, would bet or take a beton anything. Most tried to look different from everyone else by wearingthick imitation gold chains, a dyed black mustache, a velvet coat, and longhair. New York City alone had about 30,00 people earning a living fromgambling in the 1890’s. The casino’s were plush and usually had a buffetwith alcohol. The operation made a lot of money, most from cheating. Eachcasino would hire agents to come in and claim winning keno numbers,afterwards giving most of it back to the casino. Counterfeit money was alsohanded out to the few people who happened to win. Any protest from a loserand he would end up with a black eye. Oscar Handlin said, An individual maysometimes take away substantial sums of money, but in the long run thebanker must win.5 Essentially, gambling hurt society in the early years ofAmerica.
For the next 25 years, gambling became unpopular again because of reportsof cheating and changing American values. Anything thought of to be harmfulto society became illegal. For example, alcohol became illegal byProhibition. The reintroduction of gambling resulted in the return ofcorruption and fraud. By the mid 1920’s, state after state abolished itsanti-gambling laws. Gambling had become more and more accepted because ofchurches holding bingo sessions and legitimate racetracks being built. In1931, gambling became totally legalized in Nevada to replace the money thestate was getting from depleted ore rich mountains.6 Organized crimestarted to turn toward gambling as their main source of income afterProhibition ended in 1933. These criminals made most of their moneybootlegging alcohol during Prohibition, so once alcohol prices went down,they needed another way to make a lot of money fast: gambling.7Organized crime started getting more involved with gambling once Las Vegasstarted to boom. Bugsy Siegal, a half insane murderer who was sent toNevada to enforce mob control of the race wire services, opened up thefirst hotel/casino in Las Vegas. His hotel, the Flamingo began a longperiod of gang involvement in Las Vegas. In 1947, the Desert Inn opened,run by a gang from Cleveland. A savage group of people, including theinfamous Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano, established the Desert Inn in1947. Lansky, the brains of this group, was a genius with numbers, whileLuciano, the brute of the group, was a genius for finding Lansky. 1952brought the opening of the Sahara by some run-out’s from Oregon. The Sands,with Frank Sinatra as a headliner, opened in 1953, funded with Chicago mobmoney. This was the first attempt at bringing big time entertainment out toLas Vegas to draw people to casinos. Tony Stralla, a hoodlum fromCalifornia, opened the Stardust in 1955.
The Stardust towered over the rest of the hotels on the strip and had moreluxuries inside.8 Each hotel became bigger than the next and all made a lotof money. Much of the money was skimmed off the top and sent around thecountry to different mob headquarters before taxes could be taken out. Bythe late 1950’s, federal accusations such as the Kefauver expose andinvestigations by the Treasury Justice, showed the mobs involvement in LasVegas and the ways they were stealing money from the government such asskimming.9 Once again, the public saw decided gambling was bad after, thenews of corruption and fraud, just like in the 1890’s10 Today, everyone hasgiven gambling, a booming corporate industry, another chance. Squeaky cleanowners, such as Steve Wynn and Donald Trump, own numerous casinos in LasVegas and Atlantic City. Each has been portrayed by the media as good guyswho just happen to be making a lot of money through gambling.
They advertise gambling as a legitimate business, with corporate styleoffices staffed by corporate style employees and have stocks representingtheir company on the stock market.11 Each new hotel/casino is bigger andnicer than the next, just like in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. Theybring in big-time gamblers with complimentary amenities, such as free air-fare and suites. Middle class gamblers are lured to casinos by free food.
For lower class gamblers, owners provide free transportation.12 Outside ofLas Vegas, growth can be seen even more. State lotteries, riverboatcasinos, bingo parlors, and Indian Reservation casinos can be seen allacross the country. More and more states are legalizing forms of gamblingeach year. The gambling cycle is still rising and may never come down.
This recent resurgence in gambling tried to clear its image, but problemsstill exist. The growth in gambling venues has greatly increased thechances for an average person to gamble legally. This growth, in turn, hasexponentially increased the number of gamblers. By the year 2000, 95% ofAmericans will live within a 3-4 hour drive of a casino.13 Today, the onlytwo states without any kind of legal gambling are Hawaii and Utah.14Because of this, the amount of money gambled legally in 1993 was 2,300%higher than the amount wagered in 1974.15 From 1982-1990, Americansincreased their amount of money they gambled over twice as much as theirincomes increased.16Despite the growth of this new clean gambling industry, the results ofgambling remain frightfully dangerous. Casino owners, while no longerstreet hoodlums, are still mercilessly preying on the weakness of theirclients. The owners of these gambling institutions have two rules: get thepeople to start playing and keep them playing.17 They make their casinosmore enticing for the average person by making themselves look like goodcitizens. Casino owners make donations to local charities and schools andrun lucrative adds sounding as if making money at their casino will be easyand fun.18The industry has also stayed up with the times making betting easier, moreappealing, and more exciting.19 Harrah’s casino spends thousands of dollarseach year to see whether fresher air, wider aisles, and back supports canincrease gambling. The Hilton in Las Vegas even went so far as to release ascent called Odorant 1, produced by Alan Hirsch, a Chicago neurologist.
This scent made the air smell fresher, in a slot machine pit. These slotmachines saw 45% more action than usual.20 Why do these casinos want eachperson in their casino to stay longer, and to bet more money? Because theodds are in favor of the house, and the more money gambled, the more thehouse will make. CEO and President of Claridge’s Casino in Atlantic City,Bob Renneissen, said, Our goal is not to get more out of a customer inthree hours but to get him to stay for four hours.21In lotteries and horse racing the house earns the same percentage from thewagers, no matter what the outcome is. This fact ensures that more money iswagered the more money is made. In casino’s, each game has a certainpercentage of winning. Sports books get 10%, craps gets .6-1.4%, roulettegets 5.2%, blackjack receives 2-15%, and keno gets a whopping 20%. In 1980,a math genius named Jess Marcum calculated that a craps player who madejust a one dollar bet every bet for two months straight would have a one intwo trillion chance of winning $1000 before losing $1000.
In contrast, if that person only plays for 25 minutes and bets $200 everytime, they would increase their odds to 1.15 to 1.22 Basically, the longerthe gambler stays, the more money the house will take in. The casinos oftoday do not need blatant fraud and corruption, like their predecessors, tomake large sums of money. As long as a casino remains popular, it will makemoney.
The recent resurgence in gambling has created more problems in America. In1980 Tunica, Mississippi was known as America’s Ethiopia. Around 53% of thepopulation lived in poverty. Everyone thought the answer to the community’sproblems would be to build a casino This did make new jobs for some people,but the price of land increased 10 times more. Property taxes increaseddramatically as the property values increased.23 The only people who werereaping the benefits of the casino were the rich owners and the rich realestate developers. Lotteries also end up hurting the people who need helpmost. High school drop-outs and people with incomes under $20,000 make upthe largest percentage of lottery players.24 In lotteries nationwide, thepoor spend $572 per year on lottery tickets, while receiving only $80 inservices from increased tax revenues. Meanwhile, wealthier people spend $26per year on lottery tickets, while receiving as much or more than that inlocal aid.
Even though state lotteries are supposed fundraisers to help people whoneed help, they generally hurt the poor and while helping the morefortunate. Local casinos always spell disaster for nearby restaurants. InAtlantic City, from 1977-1987, 101 out of 243 restaurants closed with thearrival of casinos. These nearby casinos offer free food to draw customersin. This very expensive proposition from the owners can be written off oftheir annual income tax. In 1991 alone, 234 million dollars were writtenoff casino’s taxes.25 Why should the consumer pay for food when he can getit free at the casino? Gambling also spurs a huge increase in crime.
According to United States Attorney General Kelley, Between 1977, when thefirst casino opened in Atlantic City, and 1986, just nine years later, theincidence of larceny per capita increased by four hundred and sixty- sevenpercent. Incidence of all crime combined increased by 138%- and this figureincludes all categories of violent crime, including rape and robbery. SinceIllinois legalized riverboat gambling, funding for state police hasincreased 50%, or 100 million dollars per year.26 Charles Cozic said, Thebest estimates of increased costs to Illinois’s criminal justicesystemfrom gambling appear to range between 1.03-1.18 billion dollars.
This amount of money is much more than the state has received from thecasinos.
A high percentage of these problems stem from pathological or compulsivegamblers. Who in 1990 cost the city of Chicago approximately $52,000 peryear per gambler. They also cost the state of Maryland alone 1.5 billiondollars in lost work, productivity, stolen or embezzled monies, and statetaxes not paid.27 The compulsive gambler is the biggest problem thatgambling produces. Most compulsive gamblers live unhappy and frightenedlives.28 They almost always lose more than they can win and since they arestubborn and childish, they continue to chase the lost money in a bitter,angry, driven mood.29 Also, they are always on the way down, losing moreand more money, and going deeper and deeper in debt to banks, financecompanies, relatives, and friends.30Compulsive gamblers lose their tempers frequently, often striking anyone atany time.31 They have been known to have no limits in obtaining money.
Murder, stealing, embezzling, conning, and even resorting to prostitutionor putting their wives into prostitution have been known ways of gettingmoney to pay off gambling debts.32 People become compulsive gamblersthrough peer pressure and social pressure. Most are very competitive,athletic, have above average intelligence, and are motivated to achieve.33Many gamble for a death instinct, a need to lose, a wish to repeat a bigwin, identification, and a desire for action or excitement.34Out of the three million compulsive gamblers in America, 65% are men.35 Themost common occupation for a compulsive gambler is an attorney, whileaccountants, bankers, stock brokers, and sports figures have a higher thanaverage percentage of compulsive gamblers.36 Some compulsive gamblers oftoday include Walter Mathau, Omar Shariff, and Larry King. These troubledpeople have been and will be around as long as gambling is available. Evenover 100 years ago, big name compulsive gamblers, such as W.H. Vanderbiltand J.P. Morgan lost millions of dollars gambling.37 Institutions, such asthe 800 Gambler Anonymous’s and 300 Gam-Anon’s, have been made to helpthese troubled individuals, but most need professional help, which they cannot afford.38 Unfortunately, teen-age gambling also has increaseddramatically, especially in cities with legalized gambling.
According to Fred Franco Jr., a prosecutor in New Jersey, gambling is theaddiction of the ’90’s.39 These teen gamblers get an adrenaline rush whengambling, just like when taking drugs. Approximately 500 million to onebillion dollars are gambled each year by underage gamblers.40 Even worse,the estimated 1.3 million teen gamblers, 7% of which are under the age of18, are twice as likely to become compulsive gamblers.41 Another sourcedetermined that one million teenagers are compulsive gamblers out of theeight million compulsive gamblers in the country.42 These numbers vary somuch because few institutions have researched this very major problem.
These young compulsive gamblers have the same problems as their oldercounterparts.
Approximately 13% commit crimes to pay for their habit.43 They put gamblingabove school, friends, and their growing debt.44 A poll at a local LasVegas high school showed that 400 out of 768(52%) students had gambledillegally. Other research showed 155,000 underage gamblers were caughttrying to get into Atlantic City casinos last year.45 Teen gambling israpidly growing for many reasons. First, few seem to care about or addressthe issue. Second, every new casino built on the Las Vegas strip has becomefamily oriented. The MGM Grand, Luxor, and Treasure Island, built in thelast five years, and Circus Circus and Excalibur, built a few years before,all have a Disney-like environment geared towards kids. Children have towalk through casinos to get to their hotel rooms, theme parks and videogame arcades.46 Third, teenage gamblers hardly ever suffer any type ofsevere penalty when caught trying to sneak into a casino or buy lottotickets, so they just go to the next casino or next drug store. Finally,most young adults do not get warned about the wrong of gambling. Parentsand schools drill into their kids heads not to have sex, do drugs, or drinkalcohol, but hardly ever even say a word against gambling. These teens areheaded towards more and more problems as they get older.
Because of this huge involvement among teens, gambling had an even worseeffect on society this time through the cycle. Through the years, all formsof gambling have caused major problems and should not be condoned bygovernment. Gambling has gone in and out of popularity through cycles whereowners have gone from low life rowdies to organized crime heads, and nowbig money corporation men. America is in a very dangerous cycle because ofthe clean, corporate style gambling operations run today, which don’t seemto have any fraud or corruption. Also, many forms of legalized gamblinghave become more and more accessible. Worst, as the number of compulsivegamblers have grown, the number of teenage gamblers have dramaticallygrown, leaving poor futures for them. Government needs to recognize theproblems gambling has always produced, along with the new problems oftoday, and banish gambling altogether.
ENDNOTES 1Stuart Winston, Nation of Gamblers (Englewood Cliffs, NewJersey, Prentice Hall, 1984) p. 5. 2Bertha Davis, Gambling in America: AGrowth Industry (U.S.A., Impact Books, 1992) p. 12. 3Winston, p. 5. 4RufusKing, Gambling and Organized Crime (Washington, D.C., Public Affairs Press,1969), p. 11. 5Oscar Handlin, This Was America (New York, New York, Harperand Row Publishers, 1964), pp. 326-331 6Bertha Davis, p. 19 7Bertha Davis,pp. 10-20. 8Rufus King, pp. 121-122. 9Rufus King, pp. 8, 123. 10BethaDavis, p. 10. 11Bertha Davis, pp. 13-14. 12Bertha Davis, p. 27. 13JamesPopkin, America’s Gambling Craze, U.S. News and World Report, March 14(1994), p. 1. 14Ronald Clayton, Nation Raising a Generation of Gamblers,U.S.A. Today, April 5, 1995, p. 3. 15Charles Cozic, Gambling (San Diego,California, Greenhaven Press, 1995), p. 80. 16Betsy Reed, America’s NewAddiction: How the Gambling Industry is Seducing the States, Dollars andSense, July/August (1994), p. 1. 17Bertha Davis, p. 24. 18Ronald Clayton,p. 2. 19Bertha Davis, p. 11. 20James Popkin, pp. 5-6. 21James Popkin, p. 522James Popkin, p. 4-5. 23James Popkin, p. 6, Charles Cozic, p. 159.
24Charles Cozic, p. 26. 25Betsy Reed, p. 2. 26Charles Cozic, p. 137.
27Charles Cozic, p. 67. 28Bertha Davis, p. 72. 29Sirgay Sanger, TheCompulsive Gambler: A Bet Guaranteed To Lose, U.S.A. Today Magazine,January (1990), p. 2. 30Stuart Winston, p. 8.
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