This Week’s Report: “Gambling in America”

Casinos, state-sponsored lotteries and other gambling operations provide not only entertainment for millions of Americans but billions of dollars for cash-strapped state and local governments.

As CQ Researcher Associate Editor Kenneth Jost writes in this week’s report, principled   objections to gambling in past decades have given way to liberalized social and cultural mores and a desire by politicians to find new sources of revenue.

“In the past, the love of gambling -- along with the hope of a winning number or a winning hand – was kept in check by other social forces, including moral or religious objections and fear of the social costs for gamblers and their families as well as society at large,” Jost writes. But that resistance has receded. “The critical reason for gambling’s increased acceptance … has been its role in providing revenue for state governments. . . . For lawmakers and governors, gambling offers a revenue source more politically palatable than new taxes.”

Jost’s deeply researched report traces the spread of lotteries and commercial and tribal casinos through most of the country, discusses the social and psychological pitfalls of gambling and features a robust pro-con debate by two outside experts on whether lotteries take advantage of the poor.

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor