Handling Gambling.

Author:Kearns, Monica
Position:Books - Governing Gambling

Governing Gambling by John Lyman Mason and Michael Nelson, The Century Foundation Press, New York, 2001. 125 pages, softcover, $13.95.

Over the past several decades, all but two states--Hawaii and Utah--have become host to at least one form of gambling. With the recent economic downturn, gambling may gain new attention as a source of economic development and new state revenue without new taxes. In fact, the New York Legislature voted in October to authorize a significant expansion in legalized gambling, including additional Indian casinos, participation in a multistate lottery and installation of video gaming at horse tracks.

Gambling policy is concentrated at the state rather than the federal level. Governing Gambling argues that this decentralization helps explain the growth in gambling in recent years. Specifically, once one state authorizes a form of gambling, others follow because they hope to reap similar benefits, such as bringing new economic activity to distressed areas. Or states may authorize gambling to prevent negative effects, such as declining revenues when their citizens travel to other states to gamble.

Important national influences include the presence of gambling-related interest groups, campaign contributions by the gambling industry and changing public opinion. Public opinion of gambling shifted in the late 1970s, the authors say. As citizen anti-tax sentiment grew during this time, states looked to gambling as a different revenue source. Public opinion generally supported this approach.

These major themes are explored in each of the book's chapters, which cover the history and current status of lotteries, commercial casinos and other forms of gambling, tribal gambling, and the federal role in gambling regulation. Arguments for and against gambling are effectively discussed. Proponents say gambling is a valid form of economic development that results in jobs and investment. They believe that adults should be given opportunities to gamble if they choose. Opponents say that problem gambling, as well as its attendant social woes, harm communities. They argue that jobs in the gambling industry are...

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