The US Casino Gambling Issues
mesmerizing effect of music and rapidly flashing lights. Of problem and pathological gamblers who use these machines, Mr. Hunter, says “They sort of escape into the machine and make the world go away. It’s like a trip to the Twilight Zone.
23 Hunter is widely quoted as calling EGD’s “the crack cocaine of gambling.”24 Former Gov. David Beasley of South Carolina called the machines “a cancer.” Anti-gambling advocates in South Carolina are in the process of filing a class action suit to collect millions on behalf of gambling victims. 25 Currently in the discovery stage, the suit has named 36 plaintiffs, with well over a 100 more to join. The class action suit will go after “all profits illegally obtained over the past five years” on behalf of gambling victims.26 According to Columbia, South Carolina attorney Pete Strom, the “illegally obtained” profits are those that break the South Carolina gambling laws, such as the restriction of $50 in losses to any one gambling in one sitting.
Despite being lucrative, the proliferation of convenience gambling machines is controversial. Much of the controversy regarding convenience gambling stems from its disparate locations outside of traditional gambling venues, its rapid proliferation, the belief that this form of gambling provides fewer economic benefits and higher social costs than more traditional forms of gambling.
Before the beginning of this decade, legalized casinos operated in two jurisdictions: Nevada and Atlantic City. Casinos are now legalized in 28 states. With the multiplication of locations, there was a metamorphosis of the types of casinos. In addition to Las Vegas resort casinos, there are now nearly 100 riverboat and dockside casinos in six states and approximately 260 casinos on Indian reservations.27 The expansion of gambling to these new sites has been called the “most significant development” in the industry in the 1990s.28
Casinos are an important source of entertainment, jobs, and income. The largest casino markets are: Nevada, with 429 full-scale casinos, 1,978 slots-only locations, one Indian casino, and gross casino revenues for 1997 of $7.87 billion; New Jersey, with 14 casinos and gross casino revenues for 1997 of $3.9 billion; and Mississippi, with 29 state-regulated casinos, one Indian casino, and gross casino revenues for 1997 of $1.98 billion.29
The largest concentration of casinos are in urban areas, including Clark County and Las Vegas, with 211 casinos, 30.5 million visitors in 1997, and gross casino revenues for 1997 of $6.2 billion accounting for 79 percent of the Nevada market; Atlantic City, where all of New Jersey’s 14 casinos are located, with 34.07 million visitors in 1997, and gross casino revenues for 1997 of $3.9 billion accounting for 100 percent of the New Jersey market; and Tunica County (Mississippi), with 10 casinos, approximately 17.4 million visitors in 1997 and gross casino revenues for 1997 of $933.3 million accounting for 47 percent of the Mississippi casino market.30 For many people, casinos symbolize the gambling industry. Hence, casino locations are often viewed as indicative of a community’s embrace of the gambling industry. 27 Ibid. 28 Harold Vogel, 4 Entertainment Industry Economics (1998). 29 Bear Stearns, 1998 Global Gaming Almanac, at 19 (1998). 30 “Industry Stirs Money, controversy: South Carolina Illustrates How Video Gambling Can Impact a State,” Sarasota Herald- Tribune. February 22, 1999, page 1, section A.