A Quick History of Gambling. Gambling was a popular pastime in North America long before there was ever a United States. Playing cards and dice were brought over by both the British and the Dutch. By the end of the 17th century, just about every countryseat in colonial America had a lottery wheel. Cockfighting flourished thoughout the countries, especially in the South. Bear Baiting was also a popular sport, but the Puritans banned it.(Ortiz 4)
Almost 100 years later gambling in the West gave gambling a second life. Early church leader struck down all forms of gambling and so in the East gambling for the most part died completely. Far from both government controls and moral interference of reform groups in the East, gambling became so popular in the West that Monte tables were often setup in the middle of the town.(Donovon 13)
Organized Crime During the Prohibition Era (1920-1933), illegal gambling was organized into an authoritarian regional and national system. Responsibility for the syndication of gambling is usually attributed to Arnold Rothstein, who invented the inner-city layoff. He is also known for master minding the “Black Sox” scandal in which the White Sox threw the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds to assure gambling profits. Gambling legally, once again, becomes acceptable.
Since the 1970s, the United States has turned full circle in its attitude toward gambling. Three hundred years ago, the “sport”, mostly in the form of lottery, was seen as a perfectly acceptable way to raise money for public purposes.(Savage 12) Over the past several years, slow economic growth, cuts in federal funding to states, and growing public needs have forced many desperate state and even local government to seek additional sources of revenue. Most states have turned to lotteries, horse and dog racing, and, most recently, a growing number of states have resorted to casino gambling as a way to raise money and keep taxes low.(James B5)
Sports gambling During the late 1980s, and early 1990s, several states have tried to introduce sports betting, either as part of lottery, like sports pool, or as sports bookmaking. Never the less, the leader of the nation’s sports integrity, including the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Football League (NFL), and Major League Baseball (MLB), were concerned that the states, in their desperation to raise money, might begin to tie in sports betting with the lottery. Then the three sports teamed up to try to put a stop to this. First, they began to put strong pressure on state legislature not to induce sports betting. Second the sports industry also started lobbying Congress, and as a result, several bills have been introduced in the U.S. Congress to limit the growth of sports wagering, either as part of the lottery or as sports bookmaking.(Savage 18)
Making Gambling Interests Heard The state legislatures decide if gambling will become legal in the individual states. Currently, some form of gambling is legal in all states except Hawaii and Utah. While success is never assured, revenue-hungry state governments are virtually always willing to give gambling interests a hearing.
In April 1994, casino interest spent $4.2 million to convince Missouri voters they should permit slot machines in their state. The vote failed by 1/10 of 1%, so gambling interest spent another $11.5 million for a similar referendum in November, which passed. In Connecticut, gambling corporations spent $4.9 billion in a four-year-long failed effort to get the state to permit the building of a casino in economically distressed Bridgeport.(Goddu E1)
Gambling is generally a well-regulated business. Virtually every state that permits casino gambling or pari-mutuel betting has a state racing or gambling commission to monitor gambling activities. While today’s gambling industry is big business run by huge corporations, virtually every state regulated commission feels it must show it is making gave that no underworld or syndicate figures play a role in its state gambling activities.(Ortiz 50) The commissions also controlled other activities such as how late casinos may stay open and whether there will be limits on betting. Since these regulations are usually determined by state legislatures, it is only natural that gambling companies try to influence their decisions through lobbyists and political donations.(Siebel 19)
Opposition to Gambling The rapid expansion of gambling across the United States has not been well received by all Americans. The failure of many gambling initiatives over the past few years indicates an opposition powerful enough to either influence state legislation allowing various forms of gambling in their state or to govern enough votes to defeat initiatives which would do the same thing.(Siebel 27)
A Moral Issue Many who oppose gambling consider it morally or theologically wrong. The domestic violence and crime that might result from compulsive gambling could lead to the breakdown of the family and divorce. Gambling, especially the lotteries, contribute to the attitude that a person can get something for nothing, a belief many….. people consider particularly harmful to the nation’s morality. The states, by administering the lotteries, have become party to this. By sanctioning gambling, government authorities have contributed to making gambling publicly acceptable.
Many opponents believe that government and community leaders have had a choice between money and morality and, in all too many cases, have chosen money. Not only have they degraded their own integrity, but they have also debased the values of their communities.(Donovon 45)
Increased Addiction An estimated .7percentage of Americans are addicted to gambling. Observers estimate that with the increased opportunities to gamble, the proportion of compulsive gamblers has increased to over 2 to 5% of those who gamble.(Siebel 35)
Betting on Sports “Almost half of those surveyed by the Gallupp Poll thought betting on professional sports should be banned altogether.”(Ortiz 90) About 12 percent of those interviewed had bet on professional sports at least once in the last year. Men, young people, people living in the city, those with the same college education, and those who
Bet on sports, at casinos, and at racetracks was most likely have placed a sports bet in the last year. (Siegel 96)
Gambling in the Future The gambling industry is studying how to develop ways to allow Americans to wager using the Internet or cable television. Currently, it is illegal to gamble on the Internet because it violates the Interstate Wire Act.(Goddu B5)
Arguments supporting Gambling Americans generally agree with the arguments supporting gambling, many of which are economic. Most Americans agreed that gambling “creates jobs and helps stimulate the local economy”. “About 3 out of 5 will gamble anyway so we might as well make it legal and collect the money.” said one California mayor.(Siebel 69)
Arguments opposing Gambling In addition, a majority oppose to gambling. Saying “it’s the devil’s work”. Over half the population agreed that gambling “encourages people who can least afford it to squander their money.” Sixty two percent believed it “opened the door for organized crime.” Well over half thought gambling “can make compulsive gamblers out of people who would never participate in illegal gambling.”(Siebel 70)
The moral argument, however, held little sway since barely one-third believed gambling was immoral. Protestants were more than twice as likely as Catholics to believe gambling was immoral. Among the various Protestant denominations, Southern Baptists were far more likely to believe gambling was immoral than were the other Protestant denominations.(Siebel 71)
Do You Know Anyone with a Gambling Problem? When asked if they knew anyone who now had, or did have, a gambling problem, three-quarters did not know anyone. Fourteen percent knew a friend and 13 percent knew a relative. The father of 3 percent and the spouse of 2 percent had a problem. About 4 percent said that gambling, by either respondent or a member of the family, had made his or her home life unhappy. When asked whether they knew anyone who gambled too much (but did not necessarily have a gambling “problem”), 28 percent said they knew someone with such a problem.(Savage 40)
Most New Jerseyites believed that the state and the legal gambling companies should contribute to educate state residents about gambling and help treat compulsive gamblers. A large majority thought the state should provide education programs to students. A smaller majority believed the state should provide funding for treatment of compulsive gamblers. Almost three-fourths agreed that gambling companies should provide financial support for gambling programs.(Savage 46)
Attitudes Towards Legal Gambling The New Jersey study found that while most residents did not think gambling was illegal most did believe that gambling entailed risks to society. Only 22 Percent of those interviewed believed that gambling was immoral. Those over age 65 and those earning less than $25,000 were most likely to believe gambling was immoral.(Donovon 70)
However, 66 percent thought gambling “encouraged people who can least afford it to spend money gambling,” and 59 percent thought that “gambling can erode young people’s work ethics.” The respondents were evenly split on whether “gambling teaches children that one can get something for nothing” with 49 percent agreeing and 48 percent disagreeing.(Siebel 82)