Concern Over Current Gambling Boom
Indications of Wide Extent of Betting Activity
A passion for gambling, instinctive in many individuals, can now be gratified in this country with less difficulty than at any time for years. Gradual extension of legal betting, and relatively lax enforcement of federal, state and local anti-gambling laws, seem to reflect a more tolerant public attitude toward betting in general. Sen. Estes Kefauver (D Tenn.) complained recently that a good many people had “so far forgotten the lesson” of the hearings held a decade ago by the Special Senate Committee to Investigate Organized Crime—a committee which Kefauver headed—that “they now propose legalization of gambling or the spread of legalized race betting to off-track locations where hoodlums will be even more difficult to control.”
No reliable estimate of the total dollar volume of gambling, lawful and unlawful, is available. However, there are indications that it is enormous. Pari-mutuel betting by 30 million persons at thoroughbred horse race tracks totaled about $2.4 billion in 1959, and it is a rule of thumb that for every dollar bet legally at the track, at least two dollars is bet with bookmakers. Perhaps as many as a million persona can be counted at bingo tables every night. It has been conjectured that seven million tourists gamble $3 billion annually at Nevada's casinos.
Players of slot machines in the four Maryland counties where they are legal feed the contraptions some $12 million a year, and thousands of the “one-armed bandits” operate sub rosa in lodges, clubs and other places across the country. The numbers racket is said to gross a billion dollars a year in New York City alone. Millions of dollars are wagered with professional bookmakers on the outcome of baseball, football and basketball games. The old Kefauver committee estimated “conservatively” in 1951 that $20 billion changed hands annually in illegal betting. Most observers believe the figure is much higher today.