Gambling has become one of the most profitable American enterprises. For a time, it was legal only in the state of Nevada, but gambling has become legal in forty-eight states (although not Hawaii and Utah). Shares in some gambling corporations are traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
In the United States, Nevada became the first state to permit gambling in 1931. In large measure, the move was made to create revenue for a jurisdiction faced with the prospect of being unable to support itself. After gambling became legal,
In 1978, Atlantic City, New Jersey, joined Las Vegas as a major site for casinos, and since then, many states have licensed various forms of gambling. The
This sign welcomes visitors to Las Vegas, a major center of gambling in the United States.
Two firms–Harrah’s Entertainment and MGM Mirage–dominate the gambling business, both in Nevada and in the rest of the United States. In 2007,
Las Vegas has also successfully marketed itself as something more than just a gambling mecca–as a fun family destination and a great place to hold conventions. The city has highlighted the celebrity performances, shops and restaurants, swimming pools, and family amenities (such as playgrounds for children) featured at its many casinos as well as the relatively low prices of its hotel rooms. Each day, Las Vegas’s population of 793,000 is increased by 250,000 visitors.
About 70 percent of gambling casino income is derived from
Manufacturing of slot machines largely is the province of International Game Technology, a Reno-based business. One of its best sellers is The Price Is Right, a slot machine designed to dispense a large number of small payouts to provide a great deal of positive reinforcement while nibbling away at the bettor’s money. On the average, slots pay back about 90 percent of what is bet.
Slots are designed to appeal primarily to women over the age of fifty-five, who are believed to have considerable leisure time and disposable income. In cities such as San Diego and Phoenix, some casinos operate a fleet of vehicles that shuttle people between the casinos and retirement communities. For older people, casinos provide a safe environment, with numerous security guards and attractive shops and restaurants.
The popularity of
Most riverboat gambling came into being through voter referendums. For example, in 1962, 62 percent of the voters in Missouri endorsed a referendum favoring dockside and excursion gambling within the state on boats on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. At first, there were limited boarding times and a $500 ceiling on the amount of money any one person could lose, but the time restrictions were later abandoned. Only games of pure chance are permitted. The courts have upheld a ban against any games in which a player’s expected return is increased by reasoning, foresight, dexterity, or any strategy.
Although bets were allowed to be made at racetracks, bets on the same horse races were forbidden if placed elsewhere. This discrepancy seemed odd to many people. In 1971, legal
The effects of legalized off-track betting are difficult to determine. However, organized crime’s strength in the realm of illegal bookmaking has been greatly reduced. The impact on racetracks is harder to determine; however, tracks are experiencing lower attendance figures, an increase in the age of clientele, and a decrease in the number of foals registered each year. The drop in revenue at racetracks in Bangor, Maine, and in Pennsylvania has been offset somewhat by the installation of slot machines at the tracks.
Casinos run by
The most lucrative of the Native American gambling operations is Foxwoods Resort Casino, located in Ledyard, Connecticut, 110 miles south of Boston and 130 miles north of New York. Foxwoods is operated by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe. It hosts about 40,000 persons daily and has 6,000 slot machines as well as 350 table games located throughout its nineteen-story casino. From the profits, each of the three hundred members of the tribe receives at least $50,000 a year and some receive free homes, education subsidies, medical care, and retirement benefits.
One study found that, on average, in the first four years after a Native American casino was opened, employment in the county where the reservation was located grew by 24 percent, the population increased by 12 percent, and the mortality rate dropped by 2 percent. On the downside, bankruptcies, automobile theft, violent crime, and larceny increased 10 percent in the same time period.
The most controversial form of gambling in the twenty-first century is Internet gambling. Most
Despite the legal questions, Americans are believed to be some of the best customers of overseas Internet gambling operations. The small island of Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean has asked the
It is estimated that illegal sports betting by Americans in the twenty-first century ranges somewhere between $80 billion and $300 billion annually. Some experts argue that if Internet gambling were permitted in the United States, many of those bets would be placed with Nevada casinos because of their name recognition, and the U.S. government would gain considerable revenue from the business.
Adler, Peter J. Gambling, Freedom and Democracy. New York: Routledge, 2008. Adler argues that governments have a duty to protect their residents from the subtle degradation of legal gambling and advocates international conventions to monitor gambling activities. Chafetz, Henry. A History of Gambling in the United States from 1492 to 1955. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1960. Chafetz offers anecdotes that bear on the historical development of gambling, noting Thomas Jefferson’s backgammon losses while he was writing the Declaration of Independence and the start of the infamous Chicago fire, when a companion of Mrs. O’Leary’s son (and not her cow) knocked over a lantern while rolling dice in the barn. Darian-Smith, Eve. New Capitalists: Law, Politics, and Identity Surrounding Casino Gambling on Native-American Land. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 2004. An anthropologist looks at the implications for tribal life of casinos on Native American reservations, stressing the dramatic changes that have been introduced into a historically marginalized culture. Grinols, Earl L. Gambling in America: Costs and Benefits. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Grinols argues that others have used conceptually flawed concepts to measure the impact of gambling and that his approach indicates that its social harms outweigh its benefits. McGowan, Richard A. The Gambling Debate. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2008. Focuses on the ethical and rhetorical elements in debates regarding gambling and offers case studies from Missouri, Massachusetts, and Macao. Morse, Edward A., and Ernest P. Goss. Governing Fortune: Casino Gambling in America. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. A comprehensive examination of all facets of gambling practices, including practices in Nevada, other states, and on tribal lands, with emphasis on the role of casinos in economic development. Walker, Douglas M. The Economics of Casino Gambling. New York: Springer, 2007. Argues that legal gambling “cannibalizes” other industries and therefore makes no net economic addition to economic well-being. Includes a comprehensive review of the costs and benefits of gambling.