Casino Gambling Issues in The United States

Thus, it is not surprising that a survey conducted by the Massachusetts AttorneyGeneral’s office found that minors as young as 9 years old were able to purchase lottery tickets on 80 percent of their attempts, and that 66 percent of minors were able to place bets on keno games. Seventy-five percent of Massachusetts high school seniors report having played the lottery. 15
A further criticism is that, in pursuit of revenues, some lotteries have employed overly aggressive— and even deceptive— advertising and other marketing methods. Lottery advertising has advanced in recent years from simple public-service announcement type ads to sophisticated marketing tools. Critics charge that they are intentionally misleading, especially regarding such matters as the miniscule odds of winning the various jackpots. (As an agency of government, lotteries are not subject to federal “Truth-in-Advertising” standards). Others assert that lottery advertising often exploits themes that conflict with the state’s obligation to promote the public good, such as emphasizing luck over hard work, instant gratification over prudent investment, and entertainment over savings.

As commercial casino gambling has spread from its original base in Nevada to New Jersey, the Gulf Coast, the Midwest, and to locations such as Deadwood, South Dakota, a variety of different regulatory structures has emerged. As with the lotteries, most of the administrative differences are more superficial than substantive, and basic tasks such as ensuring the integrity of the operations and policing against infiltration by organized crime vary little from state to state. Of far greater importance are the differences in public purpose that supposedly guide government decisionmaking in this area, with corresponding consequences for each state’s economy and society.

Two contrasting, if simplified, approaches can be identified. The first, dubbed here the “Nevada” model, can be characterized as weighted toward viewing gambling as a business, albeit one requiring its own set of safeguards. In this model, the public purpose of legalizing gambling is to secure the maximum possible economic benefits for the state and its citizens, including investment, jobs, and tax revenues. Reserving to government the policing functions— ensuring the integrity of the games, combating organized crime, etc.— this approach emphasizes granting gambling a relatively free hand to respond to the demands of the market regarding the numbers of facilities, their location, and so forth. This welcoming approach— much like that accorded to favored industries in other states— has been a key factor in Nevada’s long-time prominence as a center of casino gambling in the United States.

A contrasting approach, dubbed here the “New Jersey” model, focuses on gambling’s potential negatives and emphasizes its differences from other businesses. One consequence is a broader and more in-depth role for government in the making of key decisions. In this view, casino gambling is viewed as a potentially dangerous phenomenon, but one nevertheless capable of producing significant benefits under carefully controlled conditions. In New Jersey’s case, the legalization of casino gambling in 1976 was a highly controversial issue, but was eventually accepted for the narrow purpose of helping to revive the declining resort community of Atlantic City.

15 Scott Harshbarger, Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, “Report on the Sale of Lottery Tickets to Minors in Massachusetts,” July 1994, pp. 3-4; Scott Harshbarger, Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, “Kids and Keno are a Bad Bet: A Report on the Sale of Keno Tickets to Minors in Massachusetts,” October 1996, p. 1; Howard J. Shaffer, “The Emergence of Youthful Addiction: The Prevalence of Underage Lottery use and the Impact of Gambling,” Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling, January 13, 1995, p. 9. 16 Casinos in the United States can be divided into two major groups: Native American tribal casinos and non-Indian “commercial” casinos. This chapter focuses on the latter; Native American tribal casinos will be discussed in the Chapter VI, “Native American Tribal Gambling.”