Gambling in America

March 8, 1972

Report Outline
New Movement Toward Legalization
Control of Gambling Here and Abroad
Social and Criminal Considerations

New Movement Toward Legalization

Gambling as Fertile Source of Public Revenues

Gambling is assumed to be the biggest business in the United States—a business in which eight of every ten Americans are believed to participate to some extent. There are no exact figures on how much is wagered every year, but there is unanimous agreement that the amount bet illegally is many times greater than that which is bet legally. The President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice (Crime Commission) estimated in 1967 that up to $50 billion was spent annually in illegal gambling on “numbers,” horse racing, sporting events and dice games. By contrast, federal officials calculated that in 1970 legal bets totaled $4.7 billion.

It is not surprising then that many a financially hard-pressed state is looking to the legalization of gambling as a way of raising new revenues. As long as moral considerations outweighed financial needs in the public's mind, the states moved slowly in their efforts to legalize—and thus tax—some of the various forms of gambling. But now public officials find that often it is less difficult to win legislative support for legalized gambling than to increase existing taxes. Consequently a number of states are moving toward legalization on many fronts.

In New York, a commission appointed by the legislature recommended, Feb. 1, 1972, that the state legalize and control all forms of gambling—including that of wagering on sports events. “Illicit gambling comprises one of the largest business enterprises in this state,” the commission report stated. “It grows by leaps and bounds. Yet, for all intents and purposes, it is not taxed; it contributes virtually nothing to government but headaches and disintegration.” The commission estimated that state and local governments in New York in the last decade had realized about $1.5 billion from the three existing forms of legal gambling—lottery, bingo and horse racing.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Gambling and Lotteries
Oct. 28, 2016  Betting on Sports
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
Economic Analyses, Forecasts, and Statistics
Popular Culture