"THE LUCK BUSINESS: Gambling; Governments, and Grand Illusions" by Robert Goodman

"THE LUCK BUSINESS: Gambling; Governments, and Grand Illusions"

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A censorious audit of government's role in the recent proliferation of legal gambling. Drawing on research done during his tenure as director of the US Gambling Study (a three-year project funded by the Ford Foundation and Aspen Institute), Goodman (The Last Entrepreneurs, 1979, etc.) offers a damning rundown on the factors that have contributed to gaming's astonishing and lawful spread. At last count casinos were either authorized or operating in more than 20 states (up from two in 1988). Inclusive of state-run lotteries, moreover, Americans legally wager over $400 billion per annum not only at the theme-park pleasure domes in Atlantic City and Las Vegas but also in electronic slot machines (now fixtures in rural Montana's and South Dakota's bars), riverboats plying the heartland's waterways, tribal-run casinos on Indian reservations, and plush clubs in the Old West's moribund mining towns. Expansion of gaming's domestic franchise has brought precious few of the financial benefits promised by the pols who sponsored it as a panacea for the fiscal woes of their constituencies. Indeed, as the author documents, legalized gambling imposes significant costs on host communities. In addition to ongoing investments in infrastructure and security, for example, gaming drains revenues from local businesses; it also begets expensive pathologies and social problems. In Goodman's informed opinion, however, opportunity costs levy the highest toll, meaning the resources allocated to attract or retain gambling enterprises could be employed in more productive and abiding forms of job-creating economic development. The author closes with a series of uncommonly sensible alternatives to what has become a zero-sum game rather than the bonanza widely heralded by its commercial and political promoters. An absorbing and authoritative canvass that puts paid to any beguiling notion that legalized gambling provides either a quick or durable fix for depleted municipal and state treasuries.

Pub Date: Oct. 11th, 1995
Page count: 220pp
Publisher: Free Press