Gambling's New Respectability

September 28, 1979

Report Outline
Changing Public Attitudes
Attempts at Gambling Control
Moral and Social Factors
Special Focus

Changing Public Attitudes

Legal Betting: A New Growth Industry

It's usually agreed, British economist John Maynard Keynes wrote some 40 years ago, that “casinos should, in the public interest, be inaccessible and expensive.” If Keynes' dictum once represented the conventional view of gambling, it can hardly be said to do so today — especially in the United States where legal betting has become a multi-billion-dollar growth industry. More than a year after Atlantic City opened its first casino, economists are now studying gambling as they would any other booming enterprise. And government officials, who at one time might have seen the gaming business as a corrupting moral vice, are hailing it as a fiscal panacea.

Eighty-eight million Americans, over 60 percent of the adult population, gambled in one form or another in 1974, according to a study by the National Commission on Gambling. The commission, which conducted the most comprehensive analysis of gambling behavior ever undertaken by the U.S. government, said that about 69 million of those who gambled patronized some type of legal or illegal gaming operation, while the remainder did their wagering with friends in a “social setting.” The commission also found that 80 percent of the persons who responded to its nationwide survey favored legalized betting. A Gallup Poll in June 1978 showed that only 39 percent of those questioned favored casino-style gambling in their own states, while 52 percent opposed it. But in the same poll, 78 percent of the respondents said that opening casinos would bring economic benefits to their states in the form of greater tax revenues and increased tourist trade.

In 1976, New Jersey voters approved a referendum authorizing casino gambling in Atlantic City, making it the only U.S. location outside of Nevada where such betting is legal. The measure, gambling promoters say, gave the once rundown resort a new life. Currently, two casinos operate in Atlantic City, and four more are due to open by the end of 1980. In addition to providing new jobs, New Jersey officials predict, casinos will yield $100 million a year in tax receipts by 1985.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Jun. 15, 2012  Gambling in America
Mar. 07, 2003  Gambling in America
Sep. 06, 1996  Gambling Under Attack
Mar. 18, 1994  Gambling Boom
Nov. 09, 1990  Lucrative Lure of Lotteries and Gambling
Feb. 27, 1987  State Lotteries
Sep. 28, 1979  Gambling's New Respectability
Mar. 08, 1972  Gambling in America
May 25, 1960  Betting: Legal and Illegal
Dec. 14, 1951  Gambling Controls
May 21, 1942  Government Lotteries
May 04, 1934  Lotteries for Public Revenue
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