A haphazard, albeit generally effective, exposÃ‰ of the decidedly dubious blessings that commercial gambling confers upon host communities and the body politic. Focusing on the action in New Jersey (the first state since Nevada to legalize casinos), Philadelphia Inquirer correspondent Johnston recounts how control of high-stakes gaming has passed from mobsters to putatively respectable businessmen. From a socioeconomic standpoint, he concludes, corporate operators (whose ranks encompass the likes of Merv Griffin, Donald Trump, and Steve Wynn) are scarcely a better bargain than their underworld predecessors. Drawing on a wealth of anecdotal evidence, the author documents how the glitzy but venal industry has co-opted Garden State regulators (who tend to wink at the highhanded practices of proprietors while penalizing the slightest infractions by lower-echelon employees like dealers or waitresses); has allowed drug cartels to use its pleasure domes as laundries for dirty money; fleeced legions of investors (typically with junk-bond offerings); and otherwise engaged in self-serving activities that contribute little to the public weal. Indeed, Thompson notes, casino owners have welshed on their promise to renew Atlantic City's festering slums. Nor, he argues, will legalized gambling prove much better than a sucker bet for the Mississippi River and other heartland municipalities that have rushed to embrace it in the name of fiscal salvation. A sobering, if episodic, case against an unproductive enterprise whose social coats are both steep and far-reaching.