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Gambling's Stratospheric Rise in the U.S. -- What are the Real Risks? Tell Us What YOU Think!

In 2004, 37.4 million people succumbed to the glitz, glamour and gambling that Las Vegas is famous for - its highest numbers ever.

"2004 was a great year," said Kevin Bagger, research director for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Of the people who went, 87 percent gambled (an average of 3.3 hours a day) and budgeted $545 for gaming, up from $491 in 2003.

In 1931, Nevada became the first state to legalize casinos. Now, 48 states have some form of legal gambling.

But Las Vegas isn't the only place where the gambling business is booming. In Atlantic City, New Jersey the "total casino win" increased 7.6 percent between 2003 and 2004 to reach $4.8 billion, up from $4.5 billion. And nationwide, gambling -- in the form of casinos, horse racing, lottery, bingo, online gaming and more -- is becoming more popular.

The gross gambling revenue in the United States rose from $58.2 billion in 1999 to $72.9 billion in 2004, according to the American Gaming Association. Association. Las Vegas casinos alone brought in $6.1 billion that year.

Gambling is an Ancient Sport

In the United States, the first state to legalize casinos was, of course, Nevada in 1931. Other casinos weren't legalized again until 1978 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

But humans have been drawn to gaming long before. More than 4,000-year-old dice have been found inside Egyptian pyramids, for instance, and horse racing and betting can be traced back over 2,000 years. There were casinos in ancient Roman times, located in resorts near natural spas. Even the Christian Bible mentions gambling.

Today, 48 states have some form of legal gambling. Hawaii and Utah are the only two that don't (Hawaii does allow legal social gambling). Of these, 36 states have legalized casino gambling (riverboat, commercial or on Indian reservations) and Internet gambling is already an $11-billion business worldwide -- and growing fast.

Is Gambling a Panacea or a Problem?

Those who favor gambling view it as a fun type of recreation, a hobby, a way to add a little excitement to their lives. And most state governments see it as an easy way to make money -- money they say will be turned around to make better communities and schools.

You May be Addicted to Gambling If ...

The National Council on Problem Gambling has compiled this list of signs that point to gambling addiction:

  • Increasing preoccupation with gambling
  • A need to bet more money more frequently
  • Restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop
  • "Chasing" losses
  • Loss of control manifested by continuation of the gambling behavior in spite of mounting, serious, negative consequences
  • Financial problems/ruin
  • Legal problems
  • Loss of career and family
  • Attempted suicide

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, contact your local Gambler's Anonymous for help

"Whether it's video lotteries, casinos, horse racing or lotteries ... every aspect of gambling has been expanded. States really need this extra revenue," said Sujit M. CanagaRetna, a tax and budget expert at the Council of State Governments.

Illinois, for example, mandates that all its lottery revenues be used for education. In fiscal 2003, however, lottery sales brought in $1.59 billion and only $540 million went to education. The difference was used for winnings and overhead, according to state representatives.

Those who are against gambling say it brings in crime, gambling addictions and other social problems, which may even cost more than the extra revenue it generates.

The Honolulu Police Department says that gambling is not legal in Hawaii because, "Gambling exploits those who can least afford it, and undermines community values." They say that 15.4 million Americans are problem or pathological gamblers, with more than half of them between the ages of 12 and 18. As for some of the social and economic costs of gambling, they list:

  • Unemployment benefits
  • Welfare benefits
  • Physical and mental health problems
  • Theft
  • Embezzlement
  • Bankruptcy
  • Suicide
  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Domestic abuse
  • Divorce
  • Incarceration
  • Work absences
  • Homelessness

Please Let Us Know What YOU Think!

Select answers will be published in the forthcoming issue of the e-newsletter!*

*NOTE: Your answer, or an excerpt thereof, may be published in a forthcoming issue of the e-newsletter and on the website. By submitting your answer you authorize this. Please include your name and your city state (or country) location to be included in the publication of select answers!

Recommended Reading

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Spending Your Money on Doing Things vs. Owning Things Will Make You Happier


Gambling Magazine

Forbes: Atlantic City is Dangerous and Depraved

Gambling Law US

Gambling: Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2005

National Council on Problem Gambling

States Turn to Gambling to Fix Budget Woes

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