Legalized Gambling

Through the years, gambling has become America's

pastime. Over 60 million Americans 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. 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

America. 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


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