Through the years, gambling has become America’s p

astime. Over 60 millionAmericans make some sort of wager every day.1 When compared to other
recreations (in billions of dollars) in 1990, gambling institutions made
2.2 more than magazine sales, 8.3 more than book sales, 20.9 more than
theaters, and a whopping 21.8 more than movies.2 This number has increased
to this high level because of the growth in the amount of legalized
gambling establishments and the accessibility to these establishments, both
of which increases the number of gamblers. The compulsive or pathological
gambler affects society most.

According to Stuart Winston, The compulsive gambler is the backbone of
gambling. Without the compulsive gambler, there would be no Las Vegas, no
Off Track Wagering. Two thirds of the race tracks in America would close.

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The attendance of sporting events would drop 50%, and T.V. wouldn’t bother
with sports beyond championship events.

The compulsive gambler bets a piece of his life everyday, and a piece of
his family’s. The other 45 million people who gamble are having fun.(Out of
the 60 million who gamble every day)3 These gamblers often resort to crime
to pay off their debts and anger. Even though legalized gambling has
changed through time, and has been accepted in America today, it remains
detrimental to society, and should not be legal anywhere. American gambling
can be traced back to the early years of the nation.

Different forms of gambling, such as lotteries, remained popular until
1890, when U.S. jurisdiction made lotteries and all other forms of gambling
illegal by direct prohibition.4 Gambling had become more and more a low
life thing to do. These low lifes, called rowdies, would bet or take a bet
on anything. Most tried to look different from everyone else by wearing
thick imitation gold chains, a dyed black mustache, a velvet coat, and long
hair. New York City alone had about 30,00 people earning a living from
gambling in the 1890’s. The casino’s were plush and usually had a buffet
with alcohol. The operation made a lot of money, most from cheating. Each
casino would hire agents to come in and claim winning keno numbers,
afterwards giving most of it back to the casino. Counterfeit money was also
handed out to the few people who happened to win. Any protest from a loser
and he would end up with a black eye. Oscar Handlin said, An individual may
sometimes take away substantial sums of money, but in the long run the
banker must win.5 Essentially, gambling hurt society in the early years of

For the next 25 years, gambling became unpopular again because of reports
of cheating and changing American values. Anything thought of to be harmful
to society became illegal. For example, alcohol became illegal by
Prohibition. The reintroduction of gambling resulted in the return of
corruption and fraud. By the mid 1920’s, state after state abolished its
anti-gambling laws. Gambling had become more and more accepted because of
churches holding bingo sessions and legitimate racetracks being built. In
1931, gambling became totally legalized in Nevada to replace the money the
state was getting from depleted ore rich mountains.6 Organized crime
started to turn toward gambling as their main source of income after
Prohibition ended in 1933. These criminals made most of their money
bootlegging alcohol during Prohibition, so once alcohol prices went down,
they needed another way to make a lot of money fast: gambling.7
Organized crime started getting more involved with gambling once Las Vegas
started to boom. Bugsy Siegal, a half insane murderer who was sent to
Nevada to enforce mob control of the race wire services, opened up the
first hotel/casino in Las Vegas. His hotel, the Flamingo began a long
period of gang involvement in Las Vegas. In 1947, the Desert Inn opened,
run by a gang from Cleveland. A savage group of people, including the
infamous Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano, established the Desert Inn in
1947. Lansky, the brains of this group, was a genius with numbers, while
Luciano, the brute of the group, was a genius for finding Lansky. 1952
brought 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 mob
money. This was the first attempt at bringing big time entertainment out to
Las Vegas to draw people to casinos. Tony Stralla, a hoodlum from
California, opened the Stardust in 1955.

The Stardust towered over the rest of the hotels on the strip and had more
luxuries inside.8 Each hotel became bigger than the next and all made a lot
of money. Much of the money was skimmed off the top and sent around the
country to different mob headquarters before taxes could be taken out. By
the late 1950’s, federal accusations such as the Kefauver expose and
investigations by the Treasury Justice, showed the mobs involvement in Las
Vegas and the ways they were stealing money from the government such as
skimming.9 Once again, the public saw decided gambling was bad after, the
news of corruption and fraud, just like in the 1890’s10 Today, everyone has
given gambling, a booming corporate industry, another chance. Squeaky clean
owners, such as Steve Wynn and Donald Trump, own numerous casinos in Las
Vegas and Atlantic City. Each has been portrayed by the media as good guys
who just happen to be making a lot of money through gambling.

They advertise gambling as a legitimate business, with corporate style
offices staffed by corporate style employees and have stocks representing
their company on the stock market.11 Each new hotel/casino is bigger and
nicer than the next, just like in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. They
bring 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 of
Las Vegas, growth can be seen even more. State lotteries, riverboat
casinos, bingo parlors, and Indian Reservation casinos can be seen all
across the country. More and more states are legalizing forms of gambling
each year. The gambling cycle is still rising and may never come down.

This recent resurgence in gambling tried to clear its image, but problems
still exist. The growth in gambling venues has greatly increased the
chances for an average person to gamble legally. This growth, in turn, has
exponentially increased the number of gamblers. By the year 2000, 95% of
Americans will live within a 3-4 hour drive of a casino.13 Today, the only
two states without any kind of legal gambling are Hawaii and Utah.14
Because of this, the amount of money gambled legally in 1993 was 2,300%
higher than the amount wagered in 1974.15 From 1982-1990, Americans
increased their amount of money they gambled over twice as much as their
incomes increased.16
Despite the growth of this new clean gambling industry, the results of
gambling remain frightfully dangerous. Casino owners, while no longer
street hoodlums, are still mercilessly preying on the weakness of their
clients. The owners of these gambling institutions have two rules: get the
people to start playing and keep them playing.17 They make their casinos
more enticing for the average person by making themselves look like good
citizens. Casino owners make donations to local charities and schools and
run lucrative adds sounding as if making money at their casino will be easy
and fun.18
The industry has also stayed up with the times making betting easier, more
appealing, and more exciting.19 Harrah’s casino spends thousands of dollars
each year to see whether fresher air, wider aisles, and back supports can
increase gambling. The Hilton in Las Vegas even went so far as to release a
scent called Odorant 1, produced by Alan Hirsch, a Chicago neurologist.

This scent made the air smell fresher, in a slot machine pit. These slot
machines saw 45% more action than usual.20 Why do these casinos want each
person in their casino to stay longer, and to bet more money? Because the
odds are in favor of the house, and the more money gambled, the more the
house 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 in
three hours but to get him to stay for four hours.21
In lotteries and horse racing the house earns the same percentage from the
wagers, no matter what the outcome is. This fact ensures that more money is
wagered the more money is made. In casino’s, each game has a certain
percentage of winning. Sports books get 10%, craps gets .6-1.4%, roulette
gets 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 made
just a one dollar bet every bet for two months straight would have a one in
two trillion chance of winning $1000 before losing $1000.

In contrast, if that person only plays for 25 minutes and bets $200 every
time, they would increase their odds to 1.15 to 1.22 Basically, the longer
the gambler stays, the more money the house will take in. The casinos of
today do not need blatant fraud and corruption, like their predecessors, to
make large sums of money. As long as a casino remains popular, it will make

The recent resurgence in gambling has created more problems in America. In
1980 Tunica, Mississippi was known as America’s Ethiopia. Around 53% of the
population lived in poverty. Everyone thought the answer to the community’s
problems 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 increased
dramatically as the property values increased.23 The only people who were
reaping the benefits of the casino were the rich owners and the rich real
estate developers. Lotteries also end up hurting the people who need help
most. High school drop-outs and people with incomes under $20,000 make up
the largest percentage of lottery players.24 In lotteries nationwide, the
poor spend $572 per year on lottery tickets, while receiving only $80 in
services from increased tax revenues. Meanwhile, wealthier people spend $26
per year on lottery tickets, while receiving as much or more than that in
local aid.

Even though state lotteries are supposed fundraisers to help people who
need help, they generally hurt the poor and while helping the more
fortunate. Local casinos always spell disaster for nearby restaurants. In
Atlantic City, from 1977-1987, 101 out of 243 restaurants closed with the
arrival of casinos. These nearby casinos offer free food to draw customers
in. This very expensive proposition from the owners can be written off of
their annual income tax. In 1991 alone, 234 million dollars were written
off casino’s taxes.25 Why should the consumer pay for food when he can get
it free at the casino? Gambling also spurs a huge increase in crime.

According to United States Attorney General Kelley, Between 1977, when the
first casino opened in Atlantic City, and 1986, just nine years later, the
incidence of larceny per capita increased by four hundred and sixty- seven
percent. Incidence of all crime combined increased by 138%- and this figure
includes all categories of violent crime, including rape and robbery. Since
Illinois legalized riverboat gambling, funding for state police has
increased 50%, or 100 million dollars per year.26 Charles Cozic said, The
best estimates of increased costs to Illinois’s criminal justice
systemfrom gambling appear to range between 1.03-1.18 billion dollars.

This amount of money is much more than the state has received from the

A high percentage of these problems stem from pathological or compulsive
gamblers. Who in 1990 cost the city of Chicago approximately $52,000 per
year per gambler. They also cost the state of Maryland alone 1.5 billion
dollars in lost work, productivity, stolen or embezzled monies, and state
taxes not paid.27 The compulsive gambler is the biggest problem that
gambling produces. Most compulsive gamblers live unhappy and frightened
lives.28 They almost always lose more than they can win and since they are
stubborn 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 more
and more money, and going deeper and deeper in debt to banks, finance
companies, relatives, and friends.30
Compulsive gamblers lose their tempers frequently, often striking anyone at
any time.31 They have been known to have no limits in obtaining money.

Murder, stealing, embezzling, conning, and even resorting to prostitution
or putting their wives into prostitution have been known ways of getting
money to pay off gambling debts.32 People become compulsive gamblers
through peer pressure and social pressure. Most are very competitive,
athletic, have above average intelligence, and are motivated to achieve.33
Many gamble for a death instinct, a need to lose, a wish to repeat a big
win, identification, and a desire for action or excitement.34
Out of the three million compulsive gamblers in America, 65% are men.35 The
most common occupation for a compulsive gambler is an attorney, while
accountants, bankers, stock brokers, and sports figures have a higher than
average percentage of compulsive gamblers.36 Some compulsive gamblers of
today include Walter Mathau, Omar Shariff, and Larry King. These troubled
people have been and will be around as long as gambling is available. Even
over 100 years ago, big name compulsive gamblers, such as W.H. Vanderbilt
and J.P. Morgan lost millions of dollars gambling.37 Institutions, such as
the 800 Gambler Anonymous’s and 300 Gam-Anon’s, have been made to help
these troubled individuals, but most need professional help, which they can
not afford.38 Unfortunately, teen-age gambling also has increased
dramatically, especially in cities with legalized gambling.

According to Fred Franco Jr., a prosecutor in New Jersey, gambling is the
addiction of the ’90’s.39 These teen gamblers get an adrenaline rush when
gambling, just like when taking drugs. Approximately 500 million to one
billion 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 of
18, are twice as likely to become compulsive gamblers.41 Another source
determined that one million teenagers are compulsive gamblers out of the
eight million compulsive gamblers in the country.42 These numbers vary so
much because few institutions have researched this very major problem.

These young compulsive gamblers have the same problems as their older

Approximately 13% commit crimes to pay for their habit.43 They put gambling
above school, friends, and their growing debt.44 A poll at a local Las
Vegas high school showed that 400 out of 768(52%) students had gambled
illegally. Other research showed 155,000 underage gamblers were caught
trying to get into Atlantic City casinos last year.45 Teen gambling is
rapidly growing for many reasons. First, few seem to care about or address
the issue. Second, every new casino built on the Las Vegas strip has become
family oriented. The MGM Grand, Luxor, and Treasure Island, built in the
last five years, and Circus Circus and Excalibur, built a few years before,
all have a Disney-like environment geared towards kids. Children have to
walk through casinos to get to their hotel rooms, theme parks and video
game arcades.46 Third, teenage gamblers hardly ever suffer any type of
severe penalty when caught trying to sneak into a casino or buy lotto
tickets, 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. Parents
and schools drill into their kids heads not to have sex, do drugs, or drink
alcohol, but hardly ever even say a word against gambling. These teens are
headed towards more and more problems as they get older.

Because of this huge involvement among teens, gambling had an even worse
effect on society this time through the cycle. Through the years, all forms
of gambling have caused major problems and should not be condoned by
government. Gambling has gone in and out of popularity through cycles where
owners have gone from low life rowdies to organized crime heads, and now
big money corporation men. America is in a very dangerous cycle because of
the clean, corporate style gambling operations run today, which don’t seem
to have any fraud or corruption. Also, many forms of legalized gambling
have become more and more accessible. Worst, as the number of compulsive
gamblers have grown, the number of teenage gamblers have dramatically
grown, leaving poor futures for them. Government needs to recognize the
problems gambling has always produced, along with the new problems of
today, and banish gambling altogether.

ENDNOTES 1Stuart Winston, Nation of Gamblers (Englewood Cliffs, New
Jersey, Prentice Hall, 1984) p. 5. 2Bertha Davis, Gambling in America: A
Growth Industry (U.S.A., Impact Books, 1992) p. 12. 3Winston, p. 5. 4Rufus
King, Gambling and Organized Crime (Washington, D.C., Public Affairs Press,
1969), p. 11. 5Oscar Handlin, This Was America (New York, New York, Harper
and 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. 10Betha
Davis, p. 10. 11Bertha Davis, pp. 13-14. 12Bertha Davis, p. 27. 13James
Popkin, 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 New
Addiction: How the Gambling Industry is Seducing the States, Dollars and
Sense, 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. 5
22James 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, The
Compulsive Gambler: A Bet Guaranteed To Lose, U.S.A. Today Magazine,
January (1990), p. 2. 30Stuart Winston, p. 8.