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The psychology of gambling

The sociology of gambling

The legalization issue


Gambling may be defined as a form of activity in which the parties involved, who are known as bettors or players, voluntarily engage to make the transfer of money or something else of value among themselves contingent upon the outcome of some future and uncertain event.

While the origins of gambling are lost to recorded history, it appears probable that games of chance developed out of various magical and religious practices employed by man to cope with problems of uncertainty and fate. In contemporary societies gambling appears most frequently in recreational contexts and in association with various sports and games. Among the major classes of games, gambling is especially common in those in which chance plays a prominent role, but it also appears in connection with games of skill or strategy and with games of physical prowess. In nonrecreational contexts gambling occurs in the form of wagers on the outcome of future events about which the bettors have strong convictions, as in the case of election outcomes. Elements closely parallel to gambling appear in conjunction with economic activities, especially those in which risk and uncertainty are prominent. In effect, speculators on the commodity markets bet against each other about the rise or fall of commodity prices.

In its various aspects gambling is at once a major recreational institution, a minor vice, a large-scale industry, a powerful source of crime and political corruption, a perennial social problem, a fascinating psychological puzzle, and an intriguing pastime. Like prostitution, it is ancient, widespread, and widely disapproved. It flourishes, in spite of ethical taboo and legal sanction, as an institutionalized deviant pattern and as a form of crime in which the victims are willing accomplices.

Social science perspectives on gambling . Because of gambling’s complex and paradoxical nature, it is not surprising that the responses to it by social scientists and others have been extraordinarily diverse. Philosophers and theologians have struggled with the ethical and teleological implications of gambling, viewing it at times as a profane and frivolous stepchild of religion, to which it bears certain disquieting similarities. Mathematicians have exploited gambling to the hilt in the development of probability theory, some of them becoming gamesters in the process. Economists have turned to gambling to clarify the distinction between the functional and dysfunctional aspects of speculation and, more recently, for some sophisticated reformulations of utility theory. In the “theory of games” they have found in gambling a model for analyzing strategies in competitive situations involving risk and uncertainty.

Experimental psychologists have employed gambling situations in studies of probability learning and probability preferences, of levels of aspiration, and of intermittent reinforcement and conflict-drive motivation. Social psychologists have utilized gambling games to study social competition, aggression, and coalition formation. Psychoanalysts and clinical psychologists have concerned themselves with the unconscious motivations and personality structures of gamblers and with the problems of addiction. Sociologists have been interested in the incidence of gambling, its organization in relation to the underworld and the police, its functions for individuals and society, and its control. Finally, ethnographers and social historians have provided some fascinating descriptions of the cultural patterning of gambling in various times and places.

In these many different approaches that have touched on the subject, the interest in gambling has often been peripheral to some other, central interest, with the result that the coverage is piecemeal and fragmentary. While there are scattered bits of useful knowledge and theory, systematic treatises on gambling are sadly lacking. Moreover, many of the treatments that do exist are speculative, impressionistic, and moralistic, and many are also without adequate data.

The psychology of gambling

From a psychological viewpoint, gambling is at once an instrumental activity, directed toward a consciously recognized economic end, and an expressive activity, enjoyed as an end in itself. Interpretations of gambling motivations have varied widely, depending upon which of these facets has commanded the central focus of attention.

Gambling as instrumental behavior

In making their betting decisions, economically oriented gamblers must take two principal factors into account: the odds and the probabilities. In gambling terminology “odds” designates the ratio between the amount staked and the amount the player stands to win if successful. “Probabilities” refers to expectations regarding the outcome of the event bet upon, expressed as a ratio of favorable to unfavorable outcomes or as the percentage of favorable outcomes out of all possible outcomes. The actuarial value of a gambling risk depends upon the relationship between the odds and the probabilities. In gambling situations generally, there is a tendency for these two ratios to approach an inverted balance: as the probabilities of a favorable outcome become smaller, the odds become longer. For example, in horse racing, long shots fetch better prices than favorites. That this tendency exists at all may be taken as evidence for the operation of an element of economic rationality among gamblers.

It is clear, however, that no general theory of gambling behavior can be constructed from the conventional notions of economic rationality alone. In every gambling situation either the odds and probabilities are exactly balanced or they are not. Assume, first, that they are balanced, as in the case of tossing coins for even money. In the gambling world such risks are known as fair risks because neither side has any clear advantage. While it might appear that the rational gambler would have no particular reason to avoid such risks, there is also no apparent reason for him to accept them. Indeed, according to orthodox economic theory, the prudent gambler would presumably assign some element of disutility or cost to risk assumption and to the activity of gambling itself, regarding it as a form of “work.” Moreover, if he assigns some function of diminishing utility to successive increments of money income, as economic theory assumes, the utility of each unit of money he might win in a fair-risk situation would be less than that of the money he might lose. Hence, the economically rational gambler would presumably avoid such risks as in this sense “not fair.”

In all other gambling situations the odds and probabilities are not in balance. In situations of this sort, since all gambling transactions are between persons, it follows that whereas one player has backed a good risk, his opponent has by definition accepted a poor one. It is evident, therefore, that at least half of all gamblers have lost their rational economic bearings. In fact, in the gambling world the majority of good risks are monopolized by the professional gamblers who operate the various games and devices, always with a comfortable margin of safety. From the lay player’s point of view there are no “good risks” at all in any professionally operated gambling house. Yet the market behavior of such gamblers makes it clear that there is always an easy market for poor gambling risks, especially those in which the odds are intriguingly long but offset by disastrously short probabilities.

The “utility of money.” Economists and psychologists alike have advanced many arguments and theories designed to show how such apparently nonrational behavior may yet be motivationally intelligible. One line of argument has called for a reappraisal of traditional assumptions about the diminishing utility of money. Thus, Vickrey (1945) reasoned that the behavior of lottery players clearly implies that in this situation the utility of money is an increasing rather than a decreasing function of income. Following this same theme, Friedman and Savage (1948) demonstrated that for the gambler even a small probability of a large reward may have more utility than either a much larger prob ability of small loss or the certainty, if the risk be rejected, of staying at the same income level. Along similar lines, Mosteller and Nogee (1951) recorded the actual market behavior of experimental subjects in a situation that permitted varying amounts to be won, with varying probabilities of success or failure. Observing that the subjects do not automatically accept the bets with the highest actuarial values, they attempted to construct a series of curves showing the actual utility for their subjects of varying amounts of money (see also Coombs & Komorita 1958).

The “utility of gambling.” A second line of analysis has challenged the assumption that the activity of gambling should be reckoned on the cost, or disutility, side of the calculus. In effect, the gambler may justify his losses as a fair payment for the pleasure he has obtained from the activity itself. Royden, Suppes, and Walsh (1959) have proposed a carefully reasoned model for the experimental measurement of the “utility of gambling” itself, which they argue must be kept independent of notions about the “utility of money.” This line of analysis, however, is not much help in explaining why gamblers find pleasure in this activity, while nongamblers presumably do not.

Subjective probabilities

A third line of analysis, focusing on the cognitive aspects of gambling orientations, raises the question whether gambling behavior is a function of simple ignorance or error or whether the “subjective probabilities” upon which the gambler premises his behavior are systemati cally distorted or biased by various motivational factors.

Ignorance or error. Studies of probability learning provide evidence that there is ample scope for error in appraising the probabilities in complex gambling situations. Komorita (1959) has shown that experimental subjects are least accurate in estimating probabilities when the number of events or possible outcomes is large and when the probabilities for unit events depart from .50. Brim and Koenig (1959) found, in a sample of 143 college students, that none knew the correct way to combine the probabilities of independent events. And Cohen and Hansel (1958) found that even highly intelligent subjects tended to interpret multiplicative probabilities as if they were additive. Professional gamblers are less prone to such errors and employ their extra knowledge to design gambling situations in which the true probabilities are subtly concealed.

Faulty reasoning may also serve to distort subjective probability estimates, as, for example, in the widespread belief among gamblers in the “maturity-of-chances” doctrine (Jarvik 1951). Since Dame Fortune must keep her books in balance, reason such gamblers, at roulette, for example, after any unduly long run of black the probabilities of red appearing on the next few plays are greatly increased. In fact, of course, the probabilities on unit events are not affected by preceding sequences. Ironically, perhaps, while the ability to estimate true probabilities generally increases with maturity (Cohen 1957), more sophisticated reasoning errors, such as the maturity-of-chances theory, do not occur among young children and become increasingly common with advancing age (Ross & Levy 1958).

Distorted estimates of the true probabilities also result from erroneous information—a principle much utilized by shrewd professionals. Thus, race tracks abound with false tips and spurious “inside information,” much of which is deliberately circulated by touts to mislead the fans and thus to skew the betting odds in some desired direction.

Motivated bias. While there is ample scope for simple ignorance or error in gambling situations, there is also abundant evidence that such errors are not random or merely cognitive but reflect consistent patterns of motivated bias. Very simply, the “errors” are almost invariably such as to distort the subjective probabilities in the gambler’s favor. It has been observed again and again that gamblers consistently overestimate their own skill or luck, and it has been demonstrated experimentally that subjects consistently overestimate low probabilities (cf. Preston & Baratta 1948; Nogee & Lieberman 1960).

A variety of possible explanations of this phenomenon have been advanced. Atkinson (1957) demonstrated experimentally that the tendency to overestimate chances to win is especially likely to be associated with a high need for achievement. Another recent study of probability learning has shown that positive events are learned more rapidly and extinguished more slowly than negative events (Crandall et al. 1958). This might help to explain the tendency among gamblers to think they are ahead—to remember the exciting winning play and forget the losses that preceded it. But, of course, most gamblers do know in a cognitive sense that they might lose and that they have lost in the past. Leon Festinger and his associates would regard this as an example of dissonant information that must somehow be suppressed if the gambler wishes to continue, which of course he does; indeed, this circumstance may cause the actor to develop some extra attraction to the activity, harnessing various secondary drives to it to justify his behavior and compensate for the dissonant information (Lawrence & Festinger 1962).

In terms of learning theory more generally, gambling represents an ideal-typical situation of “intermittent reinforcement,” or partial reward, and the evidence is overwhelming that activities reinforced in this way are peculiarly resistant to extinction. One plausible explanation of this is advanced in the conflict–drive theory developed by J. M. Whiting and his associates. Basically, this theory argues that when the same activity is sometimes rewarded and at other times nonrewarded or punished, conflict between the contradictory expectations of reward and punishment has the effect of adding drive strength to the originally reinforced action (Sears et al. 1953). Very simply, if the gambler always won or always lost, he would presumably lose interest; however, the conflict between fear and hope helps keep him going.

Gambling as expressive behavior

In considering the purely psychological rewards of gambling, we are clearly getting away from a concern with cognitive orientations and the interpretation of gambling as an instrumental activity directed toward an economic goal and are moving toward interpretations of gambling as an end in itself. It has been shown that even mathematically sophisticated subjects, possessing full information regarding the odds and the probabilities, opt for poor risks most of the time (Scodel et al. 1959). Curiously, it is also clear that there are some kinds of people who would not even bet on a sure thing. Moreover, there are evidently important differences among gamblers themselves: between those who prefer games of pure chance and those who prefer games involving skill or strategy; between system players and long-shot players; or between petty gamblers and addicts, for example. Such differentials as these yield to analysis only in terms of the differential noneconomic needs and motives of different classes of people.

Games as expressive models. Games typically occur in times, places, and contexts that are removed from the workaday utilitarian sectors of social structure and hence from the constraints and disciplines that the reality principle imposes on task-oriented activities. Thus, they tend to become intimately involved with the expressive and social-emotional sectors and to be concerned with problems of tension release and integration. Indeed, because they operate in what Kurt Lewin called a “plane of unreality,” games are well suited to function as expressive models, onto which a variety of psychological conflicts and problems can be harmlessly projected. As Menninger noted with respect to games of strategy, they may enable us “to express aggression without reality consequences; one can hurt people without really hurting them; we can even kill them without really killing them” (1942, p. 172). In a similar vein, Phillips (1960) has interpreted certain children’s games as exercises in the mastery of anxiety, in which psychological problems can be worked through in a miniature and relatively safe context.

Observing that games are not free and spontaneous expressive activities of individuals but are embedded in culture, Roberts and Sutton-Smith (1962) hypothesize that games will have special relevance for psychological problems that are endemic and widespread in the cultures or subgroups in which they are played. While games provide a buffered learning experience for children, game involvement typically diminishes with maturity as individuals become integrated into the mainstream of their culture. Games among adults are thus presumed to represent unresolved areas of conflict, and addicted players are presumed to be persons in a high state of unresolved inner conflict.

We may go on to inquire, for what kinds of needs or conflicts, for what kinds of persons, in what kinds of groups or societies, are gambling games appropriate expressive models? A number of theories have been proposed, each with at least some evidence in its support.

Teleological motivations in gambling. Since games of chance apparently originated out of religious and magical practices of divination, it has frequently been proposed that gambling may still perform an important teleological function in helping people orient themselves to the problems and conflicts invoked by the intrusions of chance, risk, and uncertainty in a world presumed to be causally and morally ordered. In principle, chance is meaningless and unintelligible, both causally and ethically. Yet, because of its capacity to violate legitimate expectations in important ways, many people feel that it must mean something: why do these things happen? why do they happen to me? For people who find these problems salient, gambling may assume a cosmic significance as a device for probing after the ground of things and of one’s personal relationships to fate (am I lucky today?). In one of the earliest psychological studies of gambling, France (1902) argued that in an environment of uncertaint a belief in luck is functional in encouraging a necessary element of risk assumption but that too much reliance on luck would obviate action and lead to a lack of effort. Relevant empirical evidence is provided in a recent crosscultural study (Roberts et al. 1959) which demonstrates that games of chance are especially likely to be found in preliterate societies in which the deities are regarded as benevolent and nonaggressive and readily subject to compulsion by humans. In contemporary, rationally oriented societies, gambling appeals particularly to superstitous persons, and it is one of the few areas in which permissive attitudes toward superstition are tolerated.

Economic conflicts and gambling. Because of gambling’s quasi-instrumental, economic character, it is also peculiarly suitable for the working out of conflicts engendered by the discipline, frustrations, and constraints of the capitalist economic system. Since its rewards are distributed on the basis of chance, gambling would appear to make a mockery of the legitimate economy, with its stress on rationality, discipline, and hard work and its assumed correlations of effort, merit, and reward. Evidence that conflicts in this area are relevant to gambling motivation is provided in another cross-cultural study, which demonstrated that games of chance are most frequently found in preliterate societies in which child-training practices place special stress on responsibility training and arouse high anxiety about achievement performance (Roberts & Sutton-Smith 1962). The authors of this latter study have also demonstrated that in the United States games of chance tend to be preferred by women and low-status economic groups—categories especially involved with positions of frustrating drudgery and with routine responsibilities (Sutton-Smith et al. 1963). A similar hypothesis is tested by Tec (1964) in her study of gambling in Sweden, in which she demonstrated that habitual gambling is especially common in groups that find conventional channels of social advancement blocked (see also Devereux 1949; Caillois 1958).

Competition and aggression. Where gambling occurs in conjunction with games of strategy, as in poker (see Riddle 1925), motivations of personal competition and aggression may also play a prominent role. In a classic analysis of this theme, W. I. Thomas (1901) viewed gambling as a form of sublimated combat and suggested that such games may help to keep this vital “instinct” alive in our civilized, bureaucratic world. Among preliterate societies it has been shown that games of strategy tend to occur most frequently in the relatively complex societies with developed systems of stratification, in which social competition becomes problematic and a source of conflict (Roberts et al. 1959). In the contemporary United States a preference for games of strategy and also games of physical prowess is more common among higher-status persons (Sutton-Smith et al. 1963).

Anxiety and guilt in gambling. Finally, there are theories that have focused upon thrill-seeking motivations in gambling behavior and their relationship to anxiety. There is broad consensus among students of habitual gamblers that, for all their apparent external calm, gamblers are in fact highly anxious persons. The psychological literature on levels of aspiration provides abundant evidence that persons known to be high in anxiety are particularly prone to set goals for themselves that are grossly unrealistic on the basis of past performance, being either much too high or much too low (cf. Lewin et al. 1944). It has also been demonstrated that unrealistic aspirations are more likely to be set in gaming situations, perhaps because of their miniature and fictitious character, than in real life situations (Frank 1935). Addressing himself to such findings, Atkinson (1957) argues that unrealistic aspirations in fact serve the function of minimizing anxiety about failure, for if one did not really expect to succeed, failure has very little sting. In his studies of probability preferences, he was able to demonstrate that persons high in “need achievement” and presumably high in success drives typically prefer risks at intermediate probability levels, in which success or failure are equally probable and, hence, which generate a maximum of tension and anxiety. Subjects low in “need achievement” and presumably more concerned with fear of failure typically preferred risks at extreme probability levels (either sure things or long shots), in which the success-failure tension is greatly reduced. Persons with high success need would presumably prefer games of skill or strategy, while persons with high fear of failure would prefer games of pure chance, in which failure is peculiarly noninvidious [seeAchievement Motivation].

Why do people who are high in anxiety and in fear of failure elect to gamble at all? Edmund Bergler, the only psychoanalyst who has dealt extensively with the problem of addicted gamblers, has argued that such gamblers are genuine neurot ics, driven by unconscious aggression and latent rebellion “against logic, cleverness, moderation, morals and renunciation. That latent rebellion, based on the inwardly never-relinquished ‘pleasure principle,’ scoffs ironically at all the rules of education. Heavy inner retaliation is the result …rebel lion activates a deep unconscious feeling of guilt” (1943, pp. 385-386). This guilt, Bergler argues, becomes in turn a source of anxiety and creates a need for self-punishment. These unconscious feelings are then neatly displaced into the segregated, miniature, and toylike setting of gambling, where they may be more or less harmlessly worked out. The gambler persuades himself that the real source of his guilt and anxiety is the tension of the game itself, and he achieves the needed self-punishment by keeping going until he loses. Thus, unconsciously, the neurotic gambler wants to lose, and he needs to lose in order to keep his psychological books in balance (see also Bergler 1957; Olmsted 1962).

Because gambling provides such a neat, readymade, institutionalized, and culturally sanctioned mechanism for the handling of neurotic problems of this sort, the neurotic gambler does not feel neurotic and rarely appears voluntarily for treatment. Hence, to date there has been very little empirical research on gambling addiction, and academic psychologists have largely ignored the problem. There is, however, at least some empirical evidence that gambling may also serve somewhat parallel conflict-resolving functions for nonaddicted petty gamblers, along the lines indicated earlier in this article.

The sociology of gambling

From a sociological point of view gambling is of interest primarily as an institutionalized deviant pattern. Although it is widely disapproved of, gambling is nevertheless also widely practiced, and it has given rise to an extensive sub rosa organization that is elaborately articulated with the underworld, on the one hand, and with the legitimate world of its clientele, on the other.

Attitudes toward gambling

The disapproval of gambling is ancient and extremely widespread, although varying greatly in intensity, content, and rationale. At different times and places gambling has been treated as a capital offense or merely as a misdemeanor. Legal restrictions have ranged from total prohibition to selective permissiveness, in which certain types of gambling activities have been permitted or even encouraged while others were forbidden or in which the rules against gaming were lifted during stated holidays or holy days. The laws have often made a distinction between games of pure chance and games of skill or between professional gamblers and their clients. Similarly, the grounds for the disapproval of gambling have varied widely, ranging from views that hold that gambling is fundamentally wrong in. principle to views that hold that gambling is wrong only if it produces manifestly evil consequences. Essentially the same conclusions, moreover, have been derived at times from theological and ethical arguments and at other times from rationalistic, scientific, and pragmatic grounds.

In Western society attitudes toward gambling have varied significantly among different religious groups. While the Bible is silent on the subject of gambling, there are numerous references to the use of lots for serious purposes, as when Moses was instructed to allocate the lands of Canaan among the Israelites by lot (Numbers 26.55). Since chance events were considered “acts of God,” the use of the lot, with appropriate ritual and respect, was regarded as justified for discerning the divine will in serious matters. However, the use of the lot for frivolous purposes, as in gaming, was regarded as a sacrilege and profanation. While formal opposition to gambling has persisted among Jewish moralists, prevailing attitudes have softened considerably, and they now view gaming as essentially a useless waste of time. Moreover, since the Middle Ages gambling has been widespread within the Jewish community. Roman Catholics have also come to take a liberal attitude toward gambling, holding that there is nothing wrong in principle with gambling, providing only that certain conditions be met: that the game be honest, that the stakes be moderate and within the means of the players, and that the money staked be one’s own, for example.

Gambling and the Protestant ethic. In Western society fundamental opposition to gambling, as a matter of basic ethical principle, is centered squarely in Protestantism and in the cultures where these denominations prevail. These are also, as Weber (1904–1905) observed, the same cultures in which modern bourgeois capitalism has achieved its greatest development. This fact suggests the hypothesis that gambling is somehow peculiarly antithetical, in principle at least, to the core of values embraced in this dominant economic system and in its supporting Protestant ethic.

On the surface, at any rate, the antithesis would seem to be clear enough. Among the core values of bourgeois capitalism are its special emphasis on rationality, disciplined work habits, prudence, thrift, methodical adherence to routine, and the assumed correlation of effort, ethical merit, and reward. The values symbolically erribodied in gam bling are diametrically opposed to these core virtues. Since its rewards are based on chance, gambling is explicitly and spitefully nonethical and makes a mockery of the required correlation of merit and reward. Thus, it tends to undermine disciplined work habits, prudence, and thrift; and in place of the needed rational-empirical orientations, it tends to foster superstitious beliefs and magical practices. If the values fostered by gambling were to become general in the population, the whole system of ethical sentiments that functions to sustain this dominant economic system would simply wither away. So argue the Protestant moralists.

In fact, of course, even in the dominant economic system the alternative values of initiative, daring, boldness, shrewdness, aggressive competitiveness, and willingness to assume risks also play a prominent role, and sheer luck is not always irrelevant. Because these values do not fit so neatly with those of the ethically sanctioned core, they have been the focus of considerable cultural ambivalence and guilt. The American public is uncomfortably aware, for example, of certain disquieting similarities between gambling and transactions on the stock markets; but open discussion of these similarities is strongly tabooed, and standard economic texts make a frantic effort to focus on the differences. In effect, gambling becomes a whipping boy to serve the precarious distinction between forms of speculation that are functionally useful and hence “legitimate” and those that are functionless or dysfunctional. Thus, when speculation gets out of hand, the obviously dysfunctional consequences for the economy are blamed, not on legitimate businessmen and still less on the stock market system, but on “gamblers,” who have somehow invaded the market and should be driven from it. More generally, it is quite possible that the disapproval of gambling, in addition to reinforcing certain functionally appropriate values and attitudes, functions as a mechanism through which society seeks to allay its fears and misgivings about the ethical integrity of the dominant system—a fact that may account for the persistence and intensity of this disapproval in Protestant societies (Devereux 1949, chapter 18).

Functions of gambling for society

The fact that gambling persists in spite of the powerful legal and ethical taboos against it maybe taken as evidence that it serves important psychological functions for the gamblers; the preceding discussion of the Psychology of gambling has called attention to at least some of these. But what about functions or dys functions of gambling for society? This, of course, is an empirical question that cannot be answered on the basis of a priori principle. The fact that the disapproval of gambling is functional for society does not in itself establish that the practice of gambling is therefore dysfunctional, for the questions of scale, contexts, and side effects must also be considered. Most observers would probably agree that the addicted gambler, like the alcoholic, is a waste for society. Moreover, it is probably true, as the moralists have argued, that if gambling became a major preoccupation for the whole population and if the attitudes and practices of gambling were to permeate the sphere of the dominant economic system, the consequences for society would be seriously dysfunctional.

However, there is no evidence that petty gambling is in any way damaging to character or that petty gamblers differ in significant ways from nongamblers (Tec 1964). On the contrary, petty gambling may function as a kind of institutionalized “solution” for many of the specific psychological problems generated by the conflicts, strains, and ambivalences embedded in the economic system. It may serve to revitalize certain relevant patterns of motivation that are given little scope in routine economic pursuits, such as motives relating to themes of daring, combat, faith, and willingness to take chances. It has also been argued that the existence of institutionalized petty gambling is functional for society in providing a channel into which potentially disruptive speculative tendencies may be safely deflected from the legitimate market place. To these should be added the positive (and perhaps somewhat perverse) value-reinforcing and scapegoating societal function of the disapproval of gambling, for which institutionalized gambling provides a convenient target.

The legalization issue

If recreational petty gambling is harmless enough and may even perform useful functions for personality and society, the question naturally arises, should gambling be legalized? In fact, several forms of gambling have already been legalized during the present century. Gambling casinos flourish in many European countries and in Latin America; many nations, including even the Soviet Union and China, have adopted state lotteries; and legalized football betting pools have captured enormous followings in England and Sweden.

Gambling and law in the United States

In the United States pari-mutuel betting at racetracks has been legalized in approximately half the states. Several states allow the playing of bingo for charitable purposes; two states (New Hampshire and New York) operate a lottery, and only one state (Nevada) permits all forms of gambling. Although there is unmistakable evidence that moral resistance to legalized gambling is weakening rapidly in the United States, until November 1966, with the above exceptions, proposals to legalize any other form of gambling in the United States had been soundly defeated.

Although legal sanctions may have some dampening effect on the amount of gambling that occurs, they have never been able to stop gambling altogether. Sample polls in the United States have indicated over and over again that a majority of American adults do in fact gamble at least occasionally, in spite of moral taboos and legal restrictions. In 1951 the Kefauver committee estimated the volume of illegal betting in the United States at $20,000 million per year (Kefauver 1951), but that estimate is almost certainly too low. In 1963 an officially recorded $2,700 million was wagered legally on horse races alone, through the pari-mutuel machines, and experts are generally agreed that at least ten times as much was wagered illegally with bookmakers. Scarne (1961, p. 1) places the probable total volume of betting, for all types of gambling in the United States, at closer to $500,000 million a year. While this estimate is probably too large, there is ample evidence that the volume of illegal betting in the United States is sufficient to support a major industry. Indeed, since the legalization of the liquor industry in 1933, gam bling has become the major source of support of the organized underworld in the United States.

The antigambling laws are unenforced and un enforceable in the United States for two principal reasons. First, the enormous financial resources controlled by the professional gamblers have enabled them to buy protection from excessive police or political harassment. Indeed, gambling has become one of the principal sources of political corruption and graft in America, especially at municipal levels (Devereux 1949; Kefauver 1951). Second, the general public, although sufficiently ambivalent to insist that antigambling statutes remain on the books, does not really want the gambling laws enforced and hence provides grossly insufficient support to reform-administration and routine enforcement efforts. As noted above, gambling is a peculiar form of crime, which is carried on with the willing consent of its victims; even when the victims have been clearly duped or cheated, they are usually loath to complain to the police, because of feelings of embarrassment and shame.

Arguments for legalization. The proponents of legalization argue that gambling—at least regulated petty gambling—is probably harmless, possibly beneficial, and in any case ineradicable. Antigambling statutes can never be effectively enforced. By keeping them on the books, we throw the entire operation into the hands of the underworld, create thereby an enormous source of revenue and power for organized crime, and keep alive a major source of political graft and corruption in America. Moreover, we place an unnecessary burden of guilt and hypocrisy upon the lay public, which must patronize these illegal and frequently dishonest establishments to indulge their gambling propensities. Partial legalization, as it currently exists in the United States, is doubly unsatisfactory, the argument continues, for it is discriminatory, hypocritical, and sabotages the moral convictions needed for effective law enforcement. Legalization will effectively end this sort of hypocrisy, get gambling into the open where it can be suitably regulated and controlled, dry up a major source of underworld income and power, eliminate the occasion and resource for police graft and political corruption, and make available to the state a highly lucrative source of additional revenue, achieved through the most painless known form of taxation. These arguments were ably stated some thirty years ago by a leading American sociologist, E. W. Burgess (1935), and have been repeated ever since. Until now they have not prevailed, even though recent public opinion polls show unmistakable trends in this direction.

Arguments against legalization. The opposition to legalization stems from several sources and draws on a variety of arguments. The core of resistance in the United States is still firmly rooted in the residual Puritan culture, which regards gambling as inherently sinful and placates its restive conscience by keeping the official facade of culture officially against it. Whatever the merits of the moralists’ theological or ethical grounds, their arguments tend to be sociologically naive; in the empirical world one drink does not necessarily make an alcoholic or one lottery ticket an addicted gambler. While conceding that a generalized gambling mania might have disastrous consequences for society, it is an empirical question whether legalization would have this consequence. However, the moralists undoubtedly score a strong empirical point in their argument that selective legalization weakens the public will to enforce the statutes which remain.

Arguments from other sources have attempted to grapple more directly with empirical conse quences. Would legalization in fact rid gambling of gangster influence? No, answers Virgil Peterson (1945), who was for many years chairman of the Chicago Crime Commission, citing the continued influence of the underworld in the liquor business even after the repeal of prohibition laws, and the unsavory history of graft and corruption which accompanied the later days of legalized lotteries in nineteenth-century America. In rebuttal proponents point out that most European state lotteries have operated successfully for years without major scandal. But perhaps the United States is different.

Would legalization set off a wholesale gambling mania, create a population of gambling addicts, and sabotage work disciplines and the ethical attitudes which maintain them? Undoubtedly the incidence of gambling would increase, perhaps quite substantially, if the taboos were lifted and the facilities made more visible, guilt-free, and accessible, but nobody knows for sure how much it would increase. So far, the legalization of football pools and off-track betting shops in England has not produced any runaway mania. But again, perhaps the United States is different. There is at least some evidence that by the 1820s American lotteries had reached such craze proportions that they had seriously disruptive consequences for some communities (Spofford 1892) and some evidence that during the racing season at local tracks many local businesses suffer, absenteeism increases, installment payments fall off, and petty crimes increase (New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce 1939). Regarding the possible long-run effects of wholesale legalization upon the ethical attitudes and beliefs which underpin the system of bourgeois capitalism, there is no relevant empirical evidence. Opponents of legalization point to Latin America, where permissive attitudes to gambling and generally more fatalistic value systems prevail and where bourgeois capitalism has been slow to develop. Who can say whether gambling is cause or consequence in this relationship? Recalling the functions attributed above to the disapproval of gambling, could the United States afford an attitude of moral indifference?

The solution, of course, does not have to be of an either-or nature. Although few are willing to admit it and still fewer to recommend it, since it violates all the principles of logic and common sense, the United States has again and again shown by its behavior that it still covertly prefers the present type of compromise solution, in which a formal facade of disapprobation and legal taboo is combined with halfhearted enforcement and widespread practice. Through this arrangement it does achieve at least some measure of regulation and constraint, keeps the public conscience appeased, and yet provides generous opportunities for those who would gamble to do so (for a carefully reasoned defense of this arrangement, see Dos Passos 1904). But these gains, if they be that, are not achieved without serious cost; and in any event, in this age of increasing secularization it is highly probable that the proponents of further legalization will have won their battle in the United States before another edition of this encyclopedia appears.

Edward C. Devereux, Jr.

[See alsoGame Theory; Leisure; Social Control; Speculation, Hedging, and Arbitrage; Utility.]


Atkinson, John W. (1957) 1958 Motivational Determinants of Risk-taking Behavior. Pages 322-339 in John W. Atkinson (editor), Motives in Fantasy, Action, and Society: A Method of Assessment and Study. Princeton, N.J.: Van Nostrand. → First published in Volume 64 of the Psychological Review.

Bergler, Edmund 1943 The Gambler: The Misunder stood Neurotic. Journal of Criminal Psychopathology 4:379–393.

Bergler, Edmund 1957 The Psychology of Gambling. New York: Hill & Wang.

Block, Herbert A. 1962 The Gambling Business: An American Paradox. Crime & Delinquency 8:355–364.

Brim, O. G. Jr.; and Koenig, F. W. 1959 Two Aspects of Subjective Probability Among College Students. Journal of Communication 9:19–26.

Burgess, Ernest W. 1935 The Next Step in the War on CrimeLegalize Gambling: A Report to Governor Harry M. Homer. Chicago: Adair.

Caillois, Roger (1958) 1961 Man, Play and Games. New York: Free Press. → First published as Les jeux et les hommes.

Cohen, John 1957 Subjective Probability. Scientific American 197:128-138.

Cohen, John; and Hansel, C. E. M. 1956 Risk and Gambling: The Study of Subjective Probability. New York: Philosophical Library.

Cohen, John; and Hansel, C E. M. 1958 The Nature of Decisions in Gambling. Acta psychologica 13:357–370.

Coombs, C H.; and Komorita, S. S. 1958 Measuring Utility of Money Through Decisions. American Journal of Psychology 71:383–389.

Crandall, V. J.; Solomon, D.; and Kellaway, R. 1958 The Value of Anticipated Events as a Determinant of Probability Learning and Motivation. Journal of Genetic Psychology 58:3–10.

Devereux, Edward C. 1949 Gambling and the Social Structure: A Sociological Study of Lotteries and Horse Racing in Contemporary America. Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard Univ.

Dos Passos, John R. 1904 Gambling and Cognate Vices. Yale Law Journal 14:9—17.

France, Clemens J. 1902 The Gaming Impulse. American Journal of Psychology 13:364–407.

Frank, J. D. 1935 Some Psychological Determinants of Level of Aspiration. American Journal of Psychology 47:285–293.

Friedman, Milton; and Savage, L. J. 1948 The Utility Analysis of Choices Involving Risk. Journal of Political Economy 56:279–304.

Galdston, Iago 1951 Psychodynamics of the Triad, Alcoholism, Gambling and Superstition. Mental Hygiene 35:589–598.

Greenson, Ralph R. 1947 On Gambling. American Imago 4:61–77.

Jarvik, Murray E. 1951 Probability Learning and a Negative Recency Effect in the Serial Anticipation of Alternative Symbols. Journal of Experimental Psychol ogy 41:291–297.

Kefauver, Estes 1951 Crime in America. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.

Komorita, S. S. 1959 Factors Which Influence Subjective Probability. Journal of Experimental Psychology 58:386–389.

Lawrence, Douglas H.; and Festinger, Leon 1962 Deterrents and Reinforcement: The Psychology of Insufficient Reward. Stanford Univ. Press.

Lewin, Kurt et al. 1944 Level of Aspiration. Volume 1, pages 333-378 in Joseph McV. Hunt (editor), Personality and the Behavior Disorders. New York: Ron ald Press.

Menninger, Karl 1942 Love Against Hate. New York: Harcourt. → A paperback edition was published in 1959.

Mosteller, Frederick; and Nogee, Philip 1951 An Experimental Measurement of Utility. Journal of Polit ical Economy 59:371–404.

New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce, Research Department 1939 The Economic Effects of Parimutuel Horse Racing, as Measured by the Experiences of Other States. Orange, N.J.: The Department.

Nogee, Philip; and Lieberman, Bernhardt 1960 The Auction Value of Certain Risky Situations. Journal of Psychology 49:167–179.

Olmsted, Charlotte 1962 Heads I WinTails You Lose. New York: Macmillan.

Peterson, Virgil W. (1945) 1949 Gambling—Should It Be Legalized? Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 40:259–329. → First published by the Chicago Crime Commission.

Phillips, R. H. 1960 The Nature and Function of Children’s Formal Games. Psychoanalytical Quarterly 29:200–207.

Preston, Malcolm G.; and baratta, philip 1948 An Experimental Study of the Auction Value of an Uncertain Outcome. American Journal of Psychology 61:183–193.

Riddle, E. M. 1925 Aggressive Behavior in a Small Group. Archives of Psychology No. 78.

Roberts, John M.; Arth, Malcolm S.; and Bush, Robert R. 1959 Games in Culture. American Anthropologist New Series 61:597–605.

Roberts, John M.; and Sutton-Smith, Brian 1962 Child Training and Game Involvement. Ethnology 1:166–185.

Ross, B. M.; and Levy, N. 1958 Patterned Predictions of Chance Events by Children and Adults. Psychological Reports 4:87–124.

Royden, Halsey L.; Suppes, Patrick; and Walsh, Karol 1959 A Model for the Experimental Measurement of the Utility of Gambling. Behavioral Science 4:11–18.

Scarne, John 1961 Scarne’s Complete Guide to Gambling. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Scodel, A.; Ratoosh, P.; and Minas, J. S. 1959 Some Personality Correlates of Decision Making Under Conditions of Risk. Behavioral Science 4:19–28.

Sears, R. R. et al. 1953 Some Child Rearing Antecedents of Aggression and Dependency in Young Children. Genetic Psychology Monographs 47:135–236.

Spofford, A. R. 1892 Lotteries in American History. American Historical Association, Annual Report [1892]:173–195.

Sutton-Smith, B.; Roberts, J. M.; and Kozelka, R. M. 1963 Game Involvement in Adults. Journal of Social Psychology 60:15–30.

Tec, Nechama 1964 Gambling in Sweden. Totowa, N.J.: Bedminster.

Thomas, W. I. 1901 The Gaming Instinct. American Journal of Sociology 6:750–763.

Thorner, Isidor 1956 Ascetic Protestantism, Gambling, and the One-price System. American Journal of Economics and Sociology 15:161–172.

Vickrey, William 1945 Measuring Marginal Utility by Reactions to Risk. Econometrica 13:319–333.

Weber, Max (1904–1905) 1930 The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Translated by Talcott Parsons, with a foreword by R. H. Tawney. London: Allen & Unwin; New York: Scribner. → First published in German. The 1930 edition has been reprinted frequently. See especially pages 35–92.

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37. Gambling

Gambling is an industry that is undergoing tremendous change. It was not too long ago that Nevada was the only state in the union that allowed casino gambling. Today, numerous states either are considering legalizing gambling, or have already done so. There are two factors that are driving the change. First, Native Americans have won the right to establish casinos on their lands regardless of the laws of the state in which they are located. The establishment of these casinos has softened the general publics attitudes toward casino gambling and has led to the introduction of legislative initiatives that permit it, or to voter referendums on the issue. Often, in each situation, the initiatives have resulted in outcomes favorable to gambling. The other factor that has led to legalization of gambling is the economic impact. Many of the regions where gambling has been legalized have realized untold economic benefits in terms of taxes, jobs and development of infrastructure, etc.

Despite the economic developments, the idea of legalizing gambling is not without controversy. Many argue that despite the economic benefits, there is also associated tragedy as people who are addicted to gambling have been known to gamble until they have lost everything and have wreaked havoc on their families and personal lives.

Casino gambling is not the only type of gambling that exists, nor is it the only kind of gambling addressed by state laws. As can be seen in the following chapter, there are many different ways to gamble. The most common subject of regulation is betting. Pari-mutuel wagering is a betting pool in which those who bet on competitors finishing in the top three positions share the total amount bet, less a percentage for the management. Horse racing, dog racing or betting on sporting events are those most frequently and specifically banned. However regulation of regional events is common. Alaska lists about ten different events that are allowed, including many that would be unthinkable in the south: Deep Freeze Classic, Snow Machine Classic, and the Ice Classic are examples. Florida lists a number of legal gambling activities that relate specifically to the states large number of retired citizens: penny-ante games with winnings not exceeding $10 .... including poker, pinochle, bridge, dominos, mahjong that are conducted by adults within a dwelling. One of the more unusual prohibitions is found in Massachusetts where gaming is not permitted within one mile of a cattle show or military muster.

Overall, the subject of legalized gambling as an industry is far from settled and is likely to change regularly in the coming years.

Table 37: Gambling
State/Code SectionGamblingHorse Racing/Off-Track BettingDog Racing/Off-Track BettingCasinos Allowed?Other Kinds of Gambling-Related Activities Allowed or Banned
13A-12-20 et seq.; 11-65-1
Staking or risking something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or future contingent event not under ones control.Municipalities allowed to determine through referendum whether horse racing will be. permitted.Greyhound races allowed.Gambling devices banned.Pari-mutuel betting allowed in conjunction with horse and dog racing, also with televised horse and dog racing.
11.66.200; 11.66.200(b); 11.66.250(2); 05.15.180
Staking or risking something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or future contingent event not under ones control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that person will receive something of value in event of a certain outcome.Prohibited.Dog mushers contests allowed.Gambling devices banned.Several games of chance and/or skill allowed, including bingo, Canned Salmon Classic, Deep Freeze Classic, Fish Derby, Goose Classic, Ice Classic, King Slamon Classic, Mercury Classic, Mushing Sweepstakes, Race Classic, Rain Classic, Snow Machine Classic, numbers wheels, and animal classics. Social in-home gambling allowed.
13-3301 et seq.; 5-101 et seq.
Risking or giving something of value for opportunity to obtain benefit from game, contest, or future contingent event.Horse and harness racing permitted. Off-track betting prohibited.Daytime dog racing not allowed on same day as daytime horse or harness races in same county.Charitable organizations casino night fundraisers allowed; casinos run for profit banned. Indian reservation casinos allowed.Gambling in which prizes are not offered as a lure to separate players from their money allowed. Social gambling allowed. Raffles allowed.
5-66-101 et seq.; 23-110-405 et seq.
Betting any money or any valuable thing on any game of hazard or skill.Pari-mutuel wagering only.Franchised greyhound racing legal, pari-mutuel wagering only.Gambling houses and devices banned.All wagering on all sports or games banned. Betting on card games can result in a fine of not less than $10 and not more than $25. Keno banned 5-66-110
Penal code 330 et seq.; Bus and Prof Code 19400 et seq., Govt Code 98001 et seq.
Dealing, playing, or conducting, games of faro, monte, roulette, lansquenet, rouge et noir, rondo, tan, fantan, seven-and-a-half, twenty-one, hokey pokey, or any banking or percentage game played with cards or dice.Horse and harness racing permitted, pari-mutuel betting only. Off-track betting prohibited. Non pari-mutuel prohibited 337k.Not specified.Indian reservation casinos allowed, otherwise prohibited. Slot machines banned.Razzle dazzle, card, dice games prohibited if played for money, credit, check, or anything of value. Draw poker banned only in counties of 4 million or more people. Illegal to possess any dice with more than 6 faces. Bingo for charity ok 326.5.
18-10-101 et seq.; 12-60-101 et seq.; 12-47.1-101 et seq.
Risking money or any other thing of value for gain contingent in whole or part upon lot, chance, or the happening or outcome of an event over which the person taking a risk has no control.Effective April 21, 2003, off-track simulcasts permitted. Out-of-state simulcasts permitted. Parimutuel wagering only.Greyhound races permitted; off-track simulcasts permitted. Special event greyhound race simulcasts from out of state permitted. Parimutuel wagering only. Standard bred harness horse race ok w/permit 12-60-510. Horse racing permitted 12-60-511.Limited: slot machines, poker and black jack with maximum single bet of $5. Only allowed in cities of Central, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek. Indian reservation casinos allowed.Election wagers banned; gaming for charitable organizations allowed. Social gambling allowed. Bingo and raffles regulated by the secretary of state.
State/Code SectionGamblingHorse Racing/Off-Track BettingDog Racing/Off-Track BettingCasinos Allowed?Other Kinds of Gambling-Related Activities Allowed or Banned
12-557 et seq.; 53-278a et seq.
Risking something of value for gain contingent on chance.Daily double, exacta, quinella, trifecta, superfecta, twin trifecta, pick four, pick six, and other forms of parimutuel betting allowed. Off-track betting allowed.Off-track betting allowed. Wagering on out-of-state dog races allowed.Bingo parlors allowed. Pequot and Mohegan tribes permitted to operate casinos per Tribal-State Compact. Gambling devices otherwise prohibited.Any person licensed to conduct betting or wagering events must display informational materials for the prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of compulsive gamblers. Social gambling allowed.
3-10001 et seq.; 11-1401 et seq.
Recording or registering bets or wagers, or directly or indirectly betting or wagering, money or anything of value.Horse and harness racing allowed; pari-mutuel allowed. Off-track betting on out-of-state races permitted.Not specified.Gambling devices prohibited.Gambling in bowling alleys, craps games, and election wagering banned. Merchandising plans are not gambling.
22-1701 et seq.
Playing any game of chance for money or property.All wagering on athletic contests, including horse racing, prohibited.Prohibited.No house, vessel, or place on land or water, may be set up for gaming purposes. No gambling devices such as slot machines or roulette wheels permitted.Bingo, raffles, and Monte Carlo night parties organized for educational and charitable purposes allowed. Three-card monte; confidence games; bookmaking; illegal.
849.01 et seq.; 550.001, et. seq.
Playing or engaging in any card game or game of chance, at any place, by any device, for money or another thing of value.Pari-mutuel wagering meets of thoroughbred racing, quarter horse racing, or harness racing allowed with permit. Off-track and inter-track wagering allowed.Pari-mutuel wagering on greyhound dog racing allowed with permit. Off-track and intertrack wagering allowed.Pari-mutuel-style, not casino-style card rooms allowed. Tribal gaming pursuant to Indian Gaming Regulatory Act legal. Gambling devices otherwise prohibited.Penny-ante games with winnings not exceeding $10 permitted, including poker, pinochle, bridge, dominoes, and mahjongg, if conducted by adults in a dwelling. Cardrooms, bingo, gaming for charitable organizations allowed. Chain letters and pyramid schemes banned. Jahalai allowed.
16-12-20 et seq.
Betting upon the final result of any game or contest, or upon games played with cards, dice, or balls, in order to win money or other things of value, prohibited.Prohibited.Prohibited.Maintenance of gambling places or equipment prohibited.Election wagering, commercial gambling, dogfighting, chain letter and pyramid clubs banned. Raffles for charitable organizations allowed.
712-1220 et seq.
Staking or risking something of value upon outcome of a contest of chance or uncontrollable future contingent event in order to receive something of value.  Gambling aboard ships illegal. Possession of gambling devices, e.g. slot machines, illegal.Possession of gambling records, promoting gambling, bookmaking, illegal. Social gambling permitted as long as not committed in a hotel, motel, bar, nightclub, or any business establishment or public place. Must be of majority age.
State/Code SectionGamblingHorse Racing/Off-Track BettingDog Racing/Off-Track BettingCasinos Allowed?Other Kinds of Gambling-Related Activities Allowed or Banned
18-3801 et seq.; 54-2501 et seq.
Risking any money, credit, deposit or other thing of value upon lot, chance, the operation of a gambling device or the happening or outcome of an event, including sporting events.Live horse racing and simulcasts legal, pari-mutuel betting allowed.Live in-state dog racing and parimutuel betting allowed.Casino operations, including, but not limited to, blackjack, craps, roulette, poker, baccarat, or Keno. Antique slot machines may be displayed but not operated. Modern slot machine possession is unlawful.Bookmaking, possession of gambling records, pool selling prohibited.
720 5/28-1 et seq.; 230 10/1 et seq .; 230 5/1 et seq.
Playing games of chance or skill for money or other thing of value; wagering upon games, contests, or elections; owning or operating gambling devices.Horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering allowed for licensees.Not specified.Riverboat gambling allowed upon any navigable stream other than Lake Michigan.Compensation agreements; bona fide contests of skill, speed, strength, or endurance; manufacture of gambling devices; bingo; raffles; possession of antique slot machines; pull tab and jar games; and charitable games allowed.
35-45-5-1 et seq.; 4-31-1-1 et seq.
Risking money or other property for gain, contingent upon lot, chance, or the operation of a gambling device.Horse racing and satellite facilities licensed for parimutuel wagering legal.Not specifiedRiverboat gambling legal in counties contiguous to Lake Michigan, Ohio River, and Patoka Lake.Bookmaking; pool-selling; maintenance of slot machines, dice tables, or roulette wheels; and conducting banking games banned.
99.1 et seq.; 725.5 et seq.
Participating in a game for anything of value or making any bet.Horse racing legal. Licensees may simultaneously telecast out-of-state races within racetrack for purpose of parimutuel wagering.Dog racing legal. Licensees may simultaneously telecast out-of-state races within racetrack for purpose of parimutuel wagering.Excursion boat gambling, including coin-operated games legal. Gambling on land prohibited except for on Indian reservations.Bookmaking; card counting; pyramid games illegal. Raffles not exceeding $200 in value; bingo legal. Any adult may hold an annual game night with a license, if no consideration is involved except goodwill. Social gambling allowed.
21-4302 et seq.; 74-8801 et seq.
Making a bet; entering or remaining in a gambling place with intent to bet; and playing a gambling device.Nonprofit organizations may apply to state racing commission for license to construct or own racetrack facility and conduct horse races. No off-track betting. Parimutuel wagering only.Nonprofit organizations may apply to state racing commission for license to construct or own racetrack facility and conduct greyhound races. No off-track betting. Pari-mutuel wagering only.Commercial gambling illegal except in accordance with Indian tribal gaming statutes.Bona fide business transactions; prizes to winners of bona fide contests of skill, speed, strength, or endurance; and bingo operated by bona fide nonprofit organizations.
528.010; 230.210 et seq.; 238.500-.995
Staking or risking something of value upon the outcome of a contest or game based upon an element of chance.Horse running, trotting and pacing races; harness races; off-track interstate wagering legal. Pari-mutuel wagering only.Not specified.Casinos and gambling establishments illegal.Bookmaking; organizing or promoting gambling; possessing gambling records and devices banned. Charitable gaming allowed.
State/Code SectionGamblingHorse Racing/Off-Track BettingDog Racing/Off-Track BettingCasinos Allowed?Other Kinds of Gambling-Related Activities Allowed or Banned
14:90 et seq.; 27:201 et seq.
Intentional conducting a game or contest in which a person risks the loss of anything of value in order to realize a profit.Horse racing on licensed racetracks, interstate and international parimutuel wagering legal.Dog racing prohibited.Riverboat gambling allowed. Casinos allowed in selected jurisdictions. Must be over age 21 to play video poker.Gambling allowed on international commercial cruise ships sailing to ports in parishes with populations of 475,000 or more. Bona fide charitable raffles, bingo and Keno legal. Gambling via Internet illegal. Social gambling allowed.
17-A §951 et seq.; 8§301; 8§285 et seq.; 8§261-A, et seq.
Staking or risking something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event, with intent to receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.Harness horse racing and off-track betting allowed.Greyhound racing, and interstate simulcasts of greyhound racing, prohibited.Gaming allowed.Bingo clubs for individuals 62 years of age or older; bona fide business contracts legal, raffles allowed. Bookmaking; mutuel schemes; promoting gambling; possession of gambling records and/or devices illegal.
MARYLAND BR 11-101 et seq.; BR §10-502; 12-101 et seq.; 13-407 et seq.Wagering or betting in any manner to receive something of value dependent upon the result of any race, contest or contingency.Thoroughbred and harness racing legal. Pari-mutuel betting; intertrack betting; and satellite simulcast betting allowed.Not specified.Occupying any house, building or vessel on land or water for the purpose of gambling prohibited. Slot machines legal in certain counties.Bookmaking; pool-making; jai alai illegal. Games of entertainment, e.g. bingo and raffles, including bona fide political committee raffles and raffles of real property by charitable organizations. Supplier of motor fuel may not use games of chance, only retail service stations.
271§1 et seq.; 128A§1 et seq.
Winning $5 or more by gaming or betting on sides or hands of those playing, in a public place or while trespassing in a private place.Licensed horse racing and on-track pari-mutuel or certificate wagering legal.Licensed dog racing and on-track parimutuel or certificate wagering legal.Betting houses prohibited.Book making and pool making; betting in pool halls or bowling alleys; gaming within one mile of a cattle show, military muster or public gathering; using a telephone to place or accept a bet illegal. Charitable organizations allowed to have raffles or bazaars.
750.301 et seq.; 432.201 et seq.
Accepting money or a valuable thing contingent upon result of contest or happening of uncertain event.Live horse racing at licensed race tracks; on-track simulcasting; and on-track pari-mutuel wagering legal. Gaming on Native American land governed by Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Licensed casinos allowed.Pool selling; registering bets; gambling in stocks, bonds, grain or produce prohibited. Recreational card playing at senior citizen housing facility; league bowling at alleys not exceeding $1,000; redemption games; bingo; millionaire parties, allowed.
349.11 et seq.; 609.75 et seq.
Making a bet; possessing a gambling device without a license; and allowing a structure under ones control to be used as a gambling place.Licensed on-track pari-mutuel system of wagering on horse races legal.Not specified.Gaming on tribal land governed by Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.Pull-tabs; bingo; raffles; private social bets, paddlewheels; tipboards all considered lawful gambling. Possession of a gambling device in ones dwelling for ones own amusement and social skill games with prizes not in excess of $200 legal. Charitable organizations may be licensed to hold gambling activities.
State/Code SectionGamblingHorse Racing/Off-Track BettingDog Racing/Off-Track BettingCasinos Allowed?Other Kinds of Gambling-Related Activities Allowed or Banned
97-33-1 et seq.; 75-76-1 et seq.
Encouraging any game, other than a dog fight, for money or other valuable thing.Prohibited.Not specified.Cruise vessels allowed on Mississippi River or waters within any county bordering river in which voters have approved gambling. Licensed casinos allowed.Cockfights; Indian ball play; duels; raffles; gambling devices; yacht races; shooting matches; illegal. Charitable bingo allowed. Gambling devices and gaming tables are banned. Minors not allowed any gambling privileges.
572.010 et seq.; 313.001 et seq.
Staking or risking something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or future contingent event.Horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering on international or interstate horse race simulcasts legal. Off-track wagering illegal.Not specified.Licensed excursion gambling boats and floating facilities which house games of chance and skill, including poker, craps, blackjack, legal.Bookmaking; possession of gambling records and devices illegal. Bingo sponsored by bona fide charitable organizations legal. No one under 21 may wager on gambling boats.
23-5-110 et seq.; 23-4-101 et seq.
Risking money or anything of value for a gain contingent upon lot or chance.Live or simulcast horse races at licensed racetracks or simulcast facilities legal. Parimutuel, on-track wagering only.Live or simulcast greyhound races at licensed race tracks or simulcast facilities legal. Parimutuel, on-track wagering only.Video gambling devices legal. Gambling devices otherwise prohibited.Fishing derbies; wagering on natural occurrences; gambling activities sponsored by nonprofit organizations; possession of antique slot machines; shaking dice for a drink or music; Calcutta pools; bingo; Keno and raffles; sports pools and tab games; fantasy sports leagues authorized. Bookmaking, pool selling, prohibited.
28-1101 et seq.; 9-201 et seq.; 2-1201 et seq.
Betting something of value upon the outcome of a future event which is determined by an element of chance.Licensed horse racing; pari-mutuel wagering; off-track betting (including simulcasting and telephonic wagering); and exotic wagering such as daily double, exacta, quinella, trifecta, pick six legal. Tribal gaming legal, pursuant to Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Gambling devices prohibited.Lawful business transactions; playing amusement devices; conducting prize contests; participating in bingo and raffles in accordance with state statutes legal. Promoting gambling, possessing gambling records or possessing gambling devices is prohibited.
463.010 et seq.
Dealing, operating, carrying on, or exposing for play any game, or operating inter-casino linked systems.Licensed horse racing legal; off-track betting legal when conducted at licensed gaming facilities.Licensed dog racing legal.Licensed casino gambling legal.Charitable lotteries legal. Manipulation of gaming equipment; use of unapproved wagering instruments illegal. Private, social gambling allowed.
State/Code SectionGamblingHorse Racing/Off-Track BettingDog Racing/Off-Track BettingCasinos Allowed?Other Kinds of Gambling-Related Activities Allowed or Banned
647:2; 284:1 et seq.
Risking something of value upon a future contingent not under ones control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that something of value will be received in the event of a certain outcome.Licensed horse racing legal. On-track pari-mutuel wagering legal.Licensed dog racing legal. On-track parimutuel wagering legal.Cruise ships equipped with gambling machines whose primary purpose is touring may enter state for 48 hours, provided that all gambling machines are disabled while in state. Others prohibited.Charitable organizations raffles, bingo and games of chance; lucky 7; manufacture of gambling machines legal. Gambling on gas station premises; wagering on games or sports illegal.
2C:37-1 et seq.; 5:5-1 et seq.
Unlicensed risking of something of value upon outcome of contest of chance or future contingent event not under actors control, upon agreement that actor will receive something of value in event of a certain outcome.Licensed horse racing legal. On-track pari-mutuel wagering; race simulcasts; licensed intertrack wagering; receipt of and wagering upon simulcast horse races held out of state legal.Sled dog racing allowed for agricultural fairs and exhibitions only.Licensed casino operation legal.Bookmaking; possession of gambling records; unlicensed maintenance of gambling resorts; possession of gambling devices not regulated by Casino Control Act; unlicensed conduct of games of chance on Sundays illegal. Raffles and bingo for charitable organizations legal. Promoting gambling prohibited.
30-19-1 et seq.; 60-1-1
Making a bet; entering or remaining in a gambling place with intent to make a bet or play a gambling device.Licensed horse racing; on-track pari-mutuel wagering.Not specified.Gambling places illegal, except as pusuant to Indian Gaming Compact.Commercial gambling; permitting premises to be used for gambling; dealing in gambling devices; bookmaking; bribery of contest participants; accepting anything of value on the basis of results of a race, contest or game of skill or chance illegal.
Manufacturing and exporting of gambling devices; senior citizen bingo, permitted.
Minors not allowed to play bingo.
PEN§225.00 et seq.; 47A:101 et seq.; rw&b 47A§518
Staking or risking something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under persons control, upon an agreement that he/she will receive something of value, given a certain event.Licensed horse and harness racing legal. Off-track parimutuel wagering at licensed facilities legal.Not specified.Gambling devices prohibited.Promoting gambling; possession of gambling records; bookmaking; possession of gambling devices illegal. Games of chance sponsored by bona fide charitable organizations allowed. Social, private gambling allowed.
14-289 , et seq.
Operating a game of chance and playing at or betting on any game of chance at which money, property or other thing of value is bet, whether the same be in stake or not.Horse racing prohibited.Greyhound racing prohibited.Prohibited.Pyramid and chain schemes; allowing gambling in houses of public entertainment; faro banks and tables; possession and operation of punchboards and slot machines illegal. Bingo games and raffles sponsored by nonprofit organizations legal.
State/Code SectionGamblingHorse Racing/Off-Track BettingDog Racing/Off-Track BettingCasinos Allowed?Other Kinds of Gambling-Related Activities Allowed or Banned
12.1-28-01 et seq.; 53-06.1-01 et seq.
Risking something of value for gain, contingent, wholly or partially, upon lot, chance, operation of gambling apparatus, or happening or outcome of an event, including elections or sporting events, over which person taking risk has no control.Licensed horse racing; race simulcasts; parimutuel wagering, including place, show, quinella, and combination is legal.Licensed dog racing; race simulcasts; parimutuel wagering, including place, show, quinella and combination.Prohibited.Lawful contests of skill, speed, strength or endurance; lawful business transactions; bingo, twenty-one, pull tabs, poker, calcutta, paddlewheels, punchboards, sports pools and raffles sponsored by licensed charitable organizations legal. Bogus chips; marked cards; cheating devices; fraudulent schemes, illegal.
2915.01 et seq.; 3769.01 et seq.
Bookmaking; facilitating schemes or games of chance for profit; betting on schemes or games of chance for ones livelihood; possession of gambling devices; playing craps; roulette or slot machines for money.Horse racing allowed with permit; on-track pari-mutuel wagering and wagering at fourteen satellite facilities legal.Not specified.Operating a gambling house illegal except as pursuant to tribal-state compact.Games of chance, such as bingo, conducted by charitable organizations, that are conducted four days or less not more than twice a year; licensed tag fishing tournaments are legal. Public gaming; cheating are illegal. Private, social gambling allowed.
21§941 et seq.; 3A§200 et seq.
Betting or bargaining that, dependent upon chance, one stands to lose or win something of value specified in an agreement between parties.Licensed horse racing; pari-mutuel, off-track, interstate wagering legal. State Tribal Gaming Act governs casino gambling.Bona fide business contracts; any charity game conducted pursuant to Oklahoma Charity Games Act; prizes offered to participants of public events such as rodeos, fairs, and athletic events legal. Pyramid schemes; dice games; three-card monte illegal.
167.108 et seq.; 462.010 et seq.
Staking or risking something of value upon outcome of a contest of chance or future contingent event not under control of actor, upon agreement that actor would receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.Licensed horse racing and mutuel wagering legal. Off-track mutuel wagering authorized.Licensed dog racing and mutuel wagering legal. Off-track mutuel wagering authorized.Only gambling places authorized at tribal gaming facilities.Bona fide business contracts; contest of chance where players win prizes, not money, bingo, lotto, raffles, and Monte Carlo events sponsored by charitable organizations; social games are legal. Bookmaking; Internet gambling; possession of gambling records; possession of gray machines; cheating illegal. Counties and cities may authorize game playing in private settings.
18§5513 et seq.; 4§325.101 et seq.
Elements of gambling are: consideration, element of chance, and reward.Licensed horse and harness racing; interstate simulcasts; on- and off-track parimutuel wagering legal.Not specified.Gambling houses and devices prohibited.Pool selling and bookmaking; punch boards, drawing cards; private wire for gambling information; cockfighting; bullet play illegal. Bingo and local option small games of chance sponsored by charitable organizations; antique slot machines allowed.
11-19-1 et seq.; 41-3-1 et seq.
Directly or indirectly setting up, publicly or privately, any chance, game or device for the purpose of disposing of money, or assisting others in such actions.Licensed horse racing, on-track pari-mutuel wagering legal.Licensed dog racing, on-track pari-mutuel wagering legal in cities of Burrillville, Lincoln, and West Greenwich.Operation of gambling places prohibited.Bingo and raffles in senior citizen housing; bingo sponsored by charitable organizations; frontons are legal. Bookmaking, unlicensed horse races are illegal. Governmental lotteries allowed.
State/Code SectionGamblingHorse Racing/Off-Track BettingDog Racing/Off-Track BettingCasinos Allowed?Other Kinds of Gambling-Related Activities Allowed or Banned
16-19-40 et seq.
Playing card or dice games; roley-poley; rouge et noir; faro; or at any gaming tables or gaming devices.  Gambling devices prohibited.Card and dice games; lettered gaming tables; roley-poley tables; rouge et noir; faro banks; playing games in ones home on Sunday; betting on elections; pool selling; bookmaking; punchboards; gray machines are illegal.
22-25-1 et seq.; 42-7-47 et seq.
Wagering anything of value upon the outcome of game of chance; maintaining gambling place or equipment.Licensed horse racing legal. Off-track pari-mutuel wagering authorized at satellite locations more than fifty miles away from any licensed horse track.Licensed dog racing. Off-track pari-mutuel wagering authorized at satellite locations more than fifty miles away from any licensed dog track.Limited card games and slot machines authorized within city of Deadwood. Casinos allowed on Indian reservations.Travel for sole purpose of gambling; persuading others to visit gambling places; and bookmaking are illegal. Ownership of antique slot machines and bingo sponsored by charitable organizations with no prize in excess of $2000 are legal. Internet gambling prohibited.
4-36-101 et seq.; 39-17-501 et seq.
Risking anything of value for a profit whose return is to any degree contingent on chance, not including lawful business transactions.Licensed horse racing; interstate simulcast wagering; and pari-mutuel wagering at licensed satellite teletheaters legal.Not specified.Gambling devices prohibited.Promoting gambling; pyramid clubs; possessing gambling devices or records; customer referral rebates are illegal. Bingo and games of chance conducted by charitable organizations are legal.
PEN 47.01 et seq.; Civ. St. 179e
Agreement to win or lose something of value solely or partially by chance.Licensed horse racing; simulcast races and on-track pari-mutuel wagering are legal.Limit of three racetrack licenses for greyhound racing. Simulcast races and on-track pari-mutuel wagering are legal.Keeping a gambling place is prohibited.Promoting gambling; keeping a place of gambling, communicating gambling information; possessing gambling devices with intent to further gambling illegal. Social gambling; bingo and raffles sponsored by charitable organizations allowed. Bona fide contests of skill allowed.
76-10-1101 et seq.; 4-38-1 et seq.
Risking anything of value upon the outcome of a contest, game, scheme, or gaming device when the return or outcome is based upon an element of chance and is in accord with an agreement or understanding that someone will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.Licensed horse racing and all wagering prohibited.Prohibited.Prohibited.Lawful business transactions; playing amusement devices legal. Election wagering; possessing gambling records; confidence games illegal. Gambling fraud, promotion, possessing a gambling device or record all illegal.
13§2133 et seq.; 31§601 et seq.
Winning or losing money or another valuable thing by play or hazard at any game.Licensed horse racing legal except on Sundays before 1 PM. On-track parimutuel wagering allowed.Not specified.Gaming houses prohibited.Games of chance sponsored by nonprofit organizations; contests or games of chance, including sweepstakes, provided that persons who enter are not required to venture money or other valuable things, allowed. Bookmaking; pool selling; touting gambling illegal.
State/Code SectionGamblingHorse Racing/Off-Track BettingDog Racing/Off-Track BettingCasinos Allowed?Other Kinds of Gambling-Related Activities Allowed or Banned
18.2-325 et seq.; 59.1-364 et seq.
Making, placing or receiving any bet or wager of money or other thing of value, dependent upon the result of any game, contest, or event the outcome of which is uncertain or a matter of chance.Horse races, parimutuel wagering, and off-track betting at licensed satellite facilities legal.Greyhound racing specifically prohibited.Gambling devices and places illegal.Bingo, raffles and duck races sponsored by nonprofit organizations; contests of skill or speed between men, animals, fowl or vehicles; games of chance in private residences legal. Winning by fraud illegal.
9.46.010 et seq.; 67.16.010 et seq.
Staking or risking something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or future contingent event not under the persons control or influence, upon an agreement that someone will receive something of value.Licensed horse racing and parimutuel wagering allowed.Wagering on greyhound races specifically prohibited.Tribal gaming pursuant to Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and maintenance of licensed gambling facilities allowed. Gambling devices otherwise prohibited.Bucket shops; bunco steering; bookmaking; professional gambling illegal. Bingo, raffles, amusement games sponsored by charitable organizations; fishing derbies; sports pools; golfing and bowling sweepstakes; turkey shoots; social card games; promotional contests legal.
61-10-1 et seq.; 29-22A-1 et seq.; 19-23-1 et seq.
Betting or wagering money or another thing of value on any game of chance, or knowingly furnishing money or another thing of value on any game of chance.Licensed horse racing and parimutuel wagering allowed.Licensed dog racing and pari-mutuel wagering allowed.Video lottery games allowed at pari-mutuel racing facilities. Machines cannot use casino themes such as dice, roulette, or baccarat. May simulate classic slot machines.Bucket shops; policy or numbers games; gambling at hotels illegal. Bingo, raffles, games of chance sponsored by charitable organizations legal. Keeping gaming tables or devices or allowing them on property or keeping a look out for gambling activities all illegal.
945.01 et seq.; 562.001 et seq.
Bargain in which parties agree, dependent upon chance even though accompanied by some skill, one stands to win or lose something of value specified in the agreement.Licensed horse racing and on-track pari-mutuel wagering legal. Off-track betting prohibited. Simulcast wagering allowed.Licensed dog racing and on-track parimutuel wagering legal. Off-track betting prohibited. Simulcast wagering allowed.Indian gaming legal. Commercial, i.e., casino gambling illegal.Licensed bingo and raffles allowed. Crane games; snowmobile racing; bona fide business contracts; contests of skill, speed, strength and endurance legal. Bookmaking; dealing in gambling devices illegal.
6-7-101 et seq.; 11-25-101 et seq.
Risking any property for gain contingent in whole or part upon lot, chance, or outcome of an event, including sporting event, over which person taking a risk has no control.Licensed horse, harness, cutter, chariot, and chuckwagon racing and pari-mutuel wagering legal. Licensed off-track simulcast wagering legal.Licensed dog racing and pari-mutuel wagering permitted.Structures, boats or vehicles maintained for gambling purposes illegal.Bona fide contests of skill, speed, strength, or endurance; bona fide business contracts; raffles, bingo and pulltabs sold by charitable organizations; bona fide social wagering; Calcutta wagering; display or private use of antique devices legal. Professional gambling; possessing gambling devices; gambling record keeping illegal.

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Gambling can be defined broadly as participation in any risk-taking activity. In law gambling is defined as a bet or wager (consideration ), on a probability game or a sporting event (chance ), with the hope of winning a payoff or prize (FCC v. American Broadcasting Co., 347 U.S. 284 (1954)). From a public health perspective, activities such as day trading in stocks, commodities, and futures markets have been said to mimic gambling games.

Gambling has never in law or custom been considered inherently evil (malum in se ). Why then is bettingor accepting betssometimes considered a crime? Reasons that can be singled out include the belief that gambling undermines the work ethic, is destructive of personality, invites fraud and deception, and engenders social decay. Such a view of gambling, although present in most English-speaking countries, is a minority viewpoint, especially in the United States, where a variety of gambling forms are permitted under differing legal regimes. These include casinos, lotteries, wagering on horse or dog races, electric gaming devices and slot machines, jaialai, and Internet gambling.

The historical lottery

Lotteries were popularand remain sobecause they present a rare opportunity to accumulate capital by luck alone. Despite Puritan opposition, the British Parliament authorized numerous lotteries between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. "By 1775," asserted the Royal Commission on Lotteries and Betting in 1933, "the lottery had become virtually an annual event." The lottery made its entrance into American history for much the same reasons. Lotteries were said to be the "reall and substantiall food, by which Virginia hath been nourished" (Ezell, p. 8). No American governmental entitywith the exception of postWorld War II Nevada or possibly nineteenth-century Louisianahas ever been dependent upon gambling revenues for so large a proportion of its budget as was the British government. Not until the early nineteenth century, as the lottery became more widespread in England and dependence upon it increased, did its enemies gather enough influence to destroy it. England saw the last of its state lotteries in 1823.

England's Puritan opposition to lotteries reinforced America's opponents of gambling. By the 1840s and 1850s, most of the South began to feel the anti-lottery pressure, and lotteries seem to have been relatively unpopular by the time of the Civil War. National opposition to the lottery strengthened Louisiana's anti-lottery forces, who captured the governor's office and a majority of the legislature. Consequently, Louisiana discontinued its lottery. With the twentieth century approaching, lotteries vanished from the American scene.

The contemporary lottery

No state-sponsored lotteries appeared in the United States until 1964. In that year, conservative New Hampshire adopted a sweepstakes. The state had no sales or income tax, and already derived more than 60 percent of its revenues from "sin taxes" on horse racing, liquor, tobacco, and beer. From the late 1960s onward, most states searched for alternative revenue sources. Gambling became a prime candidate, particularly through the lottery, off-track betting, and casino gambling. Politicians often welcome legal gambling since it does not depend on the coercive power of the state.

Lottery revenues were often referred to as "painless" although legislators recognized that the burden of providing such revenues fell disproportionately upon identifiable income strata. The lottery is usually a regressive source of public revenue since persons who occupy lower-income positions have the most incentive to purchase lottery tickets. Although lottery ticket purchases are voluntary, so is the purchase of most goods and services, which are taxed at a rate considerably lower than the usual percentage that states take before lottery payoffs.

As states compete with one another for the lottery market, novel ways are developed to stimulate demand. States advertise and market lotteries through the following means: frequent drawings; inexpensive tickets; better chances of prize-winning; higher payoff ratios; attractive prizes (including a larger first prize); simpler buying, drawing, and paying procedures; fast notice of results; and the opportunity for players to choose their own ticket numbers. The move from state lottery prohibition to promotion in half a century is remarkable, but not entirely unprecedented given the lottery's fluctuating history of acceptance and rejection in England and the United States.

Extent of gambling

According to the 1976 report of the U.S. National Commission on the Review of the National Policy toward Gambling, 80 percent of Americans favored the legalization of some form of gambling, and two-thirds had actually gambled, signaling widespread public acceptability. Roughly a quarter of a century later, acceptance had escalated into embrace. The 1999 National Gambling Impact Study Commission, which described the intervening period as "transformative," found that by 1999 more than forty states had legalized pari-mutual racetracks and betting; thirty-seven states had established lotteries, and several others were considering introducing them. Casino gambling expanded from Nevada to Atlantic City, New Jersey, and then nationwide to the gulf coast of Mississippi, to New Orleans, to Midwestern cities on riverboats, to Detroit, and to western mining towns. The immense transformation has been accompanied by an acceptance of gambling in mainstream culture. The winning lottery numbers in ever bigger jackpot games are routinely announced on the evening news. Racetrack betting takes place over the telephone and in off-track neighborhood betting parlors in New York City. "Legions of employees" testified to the National Gambling Impact Commission about the hope and opportunities that casino jobs have brought to their families. Others, however, told tales of families devastated by problem gambling, of blight and sleaze, of a work ethic undercut by the pursuit of easy money.

When made criminal, gambling is quintessentially a victimless crime. Players rarely, if ever, call police to report that an illegal bookmaker has taken their bet. New York City's Knapp Commission found systemic corruption where police regularly received payoffs from illegal bookmakers and numbers racketeers. In recognition of this, and the consequent difficulties of enforcement, the trend in gambling law and policy has been away from strict prohibition to regulation, with distinctions made according to type and sponsorship of gambling activity. This is not entirely new. Even at common law, gambling was not criminal if the game of chance was played privately. Only when conducted openly or notoriously, and where inexperienced persons were fleeced, was gambling a crime. Most gambling statutes imposed minor misdemeanor penalties for public social gambling, with somewhat harsher penalties for gambling with a minor. Gambling by a professional player might be classified as a felony. The 1976 National Gambling Commission gave considerable attention to state criminal laws prohibiting gamblingand found that they were more widely violated than any other type of prohibition. Criminal violation of state gambling laws was scarcely an issue for the National Gambling Impact Commission. Instead, the Commission focused on social policy and consequences of the widespread growth and acceptance of legal gambling.

Gambling and organized crime

Federal criminal law monitors organized crime and gambling through the Gaming Devices Act of 1951 ( Johnson Act, 18 U.S.C. & 1804), which prohibits interstate transportation of gaming devices; the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization Statutes (RICO, 18 U.S.C. & 1961 et. seq.); and amendments made in 1985 to the Bank Secrecy Act (31 U.S.C. & 103), also known as the Currency and Foreign Transactions Reporting Act). The latter act requires several cash intensive businesses, and explicitly casinos, to report cash transactions in amounts greater then $10,000. In addition, the Money Laundering Control Act of 1986 and the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network were enacted to "establish, oversee, and implement policies to prevent and detect money laundering" (U.S. Treasury Order No. 105108).

The federal interest in casino gambling can be traced to Nevada's casino gambling industry, which was established and developed by wellknown organized crime figures. Although not all casinos have connections to organized-crime, such roots have at times become visible. During the 1970s, a number of casinos were found by Nevada authorities and the U.S. Department of Justice to be infiltrated by organized crime families who controlled union pension funds that facilitated casino expansion.

The introduction of strong regulatory measures by the states has been a factor in enabling casino gambling to expand throughout the United States. Moreover, gambling enterprises are typically owned and run by major hotel and leisure industry companies, whose stocks are publicly traded, reviewed by financial analysts and the Securities and Exchange Commission as well as by federal and state law enforcement agencies. In the 1980s only two U.S. jurisdictions, Nevada and New Jersey, had legalized casinos, in good part restrained by the industry's history of organized crime connections and financing. By the year 2000, twenty-eight states had legalized some form of casino gambling, usually in resorts, such as in Biloxi, Mississippi, or on riverboats. Detroit, Michigan, was the only major industrial United States city to have legalized casinos. Approximately 260 casinos were located on Indian lands, with many more expected, especially in California, in the twenty-first century.

Native American tribal gambling

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, 480 U.S. 202 (1987), holding that California had no authority, on Indian lands, to enforce its criminal statutes forbidding bingo. The Court declared that gambling is a legitimate tourist activity, like hunting and fishing, for Indians to exploit. Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) in 1988 to provide a statutory basis for conducting gambling on Indian lands. IGRA divides gambling into three classes: Class I consists of traditional tribal games; Class II consists of games such as bingo, lotto, and punch cards. If these games, such as charity bingo, are permitted by a state and do not violate federal law, they may be conducted on Indian lands without state approval. Class III consists of all other games, especially casino games, parimutual racing, and jai alai. To introduce casino gaming, IGRA requires states to negotiate compacts with Indians. From 1988, when IGRA was passed, to 1997, revenues from tribal gaming grew more than thirtyfold from $212 million to $6.7 billion (National Gambling Impact Study Commission, p. 61,2).

Nevertheless, disputes have arisen between states and Indian tribes over the requirements of IGRA in the areas of regulation, the scope of permitted gambling activities, and the requirement that states negotiate in good faith with tribes. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44 (1996), held that, under the Eleventh Amendment, Congress was forbidden from authorizing suits by Indian tribes to bring states to the bargaining table to negotiate a gaming compact. This decision, in effect, invalidated the good faith negotiation requirement of IGRA.

By no means, however, did the Seminole decision portend an end to the expansion of Class III (casino) gambling sponsored by Indian tribes. States could voluntarily negotiate with Indian tribes, as Connecticut had earlier with the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, who built and ran the highest-grossing casino in the world. In September 1999, California's governor and legislature ratified gaming compacts with fifty-seven tribes. In March 2000, California voters passed a constitutional proposition ratifying these compacts and legalizing a major expansion of Indian casino gambling in California.

Gambling: personality and social costs

Fun, excitement, and the occasional thrill of winning seem to motivate most gamblers. Whatever else may be said against it, gambling is not physically risky. Some psychologists have even argued that gambling can be psychologically beneficial because some gamblers affirm their existence and worth by using skills in a risky setting (Kusyszyn). Other psychiatrists compare the excitement of gambling to the intoxication of drugs. A psychologist who interviewed members of Gamblers Anonymous seems to agree: "The compulsive gambler continues to bet because the action has come to be a refuge from thought of the outside world. His anxieties associated with his wife, family, debts, or job disappear when he concentrates on money and action" (Livingston, p. 55).

Pathological gambling is often cited as a major cost of gambling's expansion. A Harvard University sponsored meta-analysis of research on gambling found that 2.9 percent of gamblers had in the previous year reported "disordered and pathological" gambling. The lifetime rate was 5.4 percent. This was low as compared to alcohol dependence and abuse (9.7%, previous year; 23.5% lifetime). Disordered gamblers often experience "co-morbidity," that is, other life problems, such as alcoholism or drug abuse.

Those citing the social costs of gambling usually include, in addition to pathological or disordered gambling, its attraction to youth, elevated crime rates, suicide rates, family problems, bankruptcy, and the corruption of legislators. However, since gambling also provides economic benefits through employment opportunity, economic renewal of declining resorts and urban areas, and taxation, legal gambling has become an increasingly attractive option for many communities. As expansion has continued, at the turn of the century a backlash has occurred, with several states declining to introduce lotteries or casinos.

Internet gambling

Five federal statutes address Internet gambling, particularly the Wire Act (18 U.S.C. & 1084), which makes illegal the use of "wire communications" to assist with placing bets or wagers. The Wire Act's applicability to the Internet is nevertheless questionable in an era of wireless cellular and satellite technologies.

Several states, including Nevada, Texas, Illinois, and Louisiana, have introduced or passed legislation specifically prohibiting Internet gambling. Nevertheless, the large majority of Internet gambling sites, along with their owners or operators, are beyond the reach of state attorneys general.

On 17 July 2000, the U.S. House of Representatives voted down the Internet Act, legislation that sought to shut down many new online gambling sitesthe number of such sites was estimated at between seven hundred and one thousandmost of which operated beyond U.S. borders. Proponents of the legislation included an unusual coalition of Nevada gaming interests, major sports leagues, and Christian conservatives. Proponents cited the potential dangers of Internet gambling, including the undermining of the integrity of sporting events; the potential for defrauding unsophisticated gamblers; the ease of access by children; an increase in gambling addictions; and the need to preserve state revenues from legal, state-run gambling.

Opponents carried the day arguing that the legislation would drive online gambling underground; tamper with the Internet economy; invade Internet privacy; and be difficult to enforce against sophisticated but inexpensive technologies. Even assuming that law enforcement could develop the technological capacity to detect violations, provisions allowing for prosecution of gamblers would require enormous expansion of federal law enforcement to obtain and administer search warrants and subpoenas. Also cited were issues of jurisdiction, comity, and sovereignty, especially where other countries have chosen, or likely will choose, to regulate, that is, license and tax, Internet gambling.

Most basic to the legal and social issues of Internet gambling is the reality that cyberspace transcends borders. Consequently, Internet gambling markets are inherently global, undermining the traditional territorial basis for legal regulation of borders. Governments have the power to grant licenses and to tax within their sovereign territory. The Internet makes it possible to supply the demand for gambling "services" such as blackjack, poker, sports, or horse race betting outside any state or national borders, and without paying gambling privilege taxes. State-licensed casinos in the United States are taxed on their winnings at 7.75 to 8 percent, as in Nevada and New Jersey, and to two to three times that amount in some riverboat states. Internet purveyors will be able to offer better odds to price-sensitive gambling consumers. Will gamblers demand better odds from land-based gambling sites, such as casinos and racetracks? Will states be forced to lower gambling taxes? Will cyberspace gambling replace sited gambling or increase the demand for it? At the onset of the twenty-first century, predictions are difficult. Nevertheless, most commentators agree that gambling on the Internet will increase, perhaps exponentially, as the new century unfoldsand with uncertain but feared consequences regarding gambling taxation, the social costs of expanded gambling, and the viability of present control systems through licensing, taxation, and enforcement.

Jerome H. Skolnick

See also Criminalization and Decriminalization; Organized Crime; Police: Policing Complainantless Crimes; Victimless Crime.


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Blakey, G. Robert. "State Conducted Lotteries: History, Problems, and Promises." Journal of Social Issues 35, no. 3 (1979): 6286.

, et al. The Development of the Law of Gambling: 17761976. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, 1977.

Christianson, E. M.; Sinclair, S.; and Cabot, A. N. "Internet Gambling: Who Regulates?" 11th International Conference on Gambling and Risk-Taking. Las Vegas, Nevada, 15 June 2000.

Clotfelter, Charles T., and Cook, Philip J. Selling Hope: State Lotteries in America. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989.

Cornish, D. B. Gambling: A Review of the Literature and Its Implications for Policy and Research. Home Office Research Study no. 42. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1978.

Devereux, Edward C., Jr. Gambling and the Social Structure. A Sociological Study of Lotteries and Horse Racing in Contemporary America. 2 vols. Edited by Harriet Zuckerman and Robert K. Merton. New York: Arno Press, 1980.

Dombrink, John, and Thompson, William N. Success and Failure in Campaigns for Casinos. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1990.

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor M. "The Gambler." In The Gambler; Bobok; A Nasty Story. Translated with an introduction by Jessie Coulson. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1966.

Downes, D. M., et al. Gambling, Work, and Leisure. A Study across Three Areas. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1976.

Eadington, Wiliam R., ed. Gambling and Society: Interdisciplinary Studies on the Subject of Gambling. Springfield, Ill.: Thomas, 1976.

. "The Evolution of Corporate Gambling in Nevada." Nevada Review of Business and Economics 6 (1982): 1322.

Eadington, William R. and Cornelius, J. A., eds. Gambling Behavior and Problem Gambling. Reno, Nev.: Institute for Gambling and Commercial Gaming, 1993.

Ezell, John Samuel. Fortune's Merry Wheel. The "Lot" in America. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1960.

Geertz, Clifford. "Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cock-fight." The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. New York: Basic Books, 1973. Pages 412453.

Goffman, Erving. "Where the Action Is." Interaction Ritual. Essays on Face-to-face Behavior. Chicago: Aldine, 1967. Pages 242270.

Halliday, Jon, and Fuller, Peter, eds. The Psychology of Gambling. New York: Harper and Row, 1975.

Hawkins, William. A Treatise of the Pleas of the Crown, or a System of the Principal Matters Relating to That Subject, Digested under Their Proper Heads. 5th edition. London: Worrall, 1771.

Kaplan, H. Roy. Lottery Winners: How They Won and How Winning Changed Their Lives. New York: Harper and Row, 1978.

The Knapp Commission Report on Police Corruption. Report of the New York City Commission to Investigate Allegations of Police Corruption and the City's Anti-corruption Procedures. Foreword by Michael Armstrong. New York: Braziller, 1972.

Korn, David A., and Shaffer, Howard J. "Gambling and the Health of the Public." Journal of Gambling Studies 15, no. 4 (1999): 289365.

Kusyszyn, Igor. "Compulsive Gambling: The Problem of Definition." The International Journal of the Addictions 13 (1978): 10951101.

Livingston, Jay. "Compulsive Gamblers: A Culture of Losers." Psychology Today, March (1974): 5155.

Mangione, Thomas W., and Fowler, Floyd J., Jr. "Enforcing the Gambling Laws." Journal of Social Issues 35, no. 3 (1979): 115128.

Pennsylvania Crime Commission. Report on Police Corruption and the Quality of Law Enforcement in Philadelphia. St. David's, Pa.: The Commission, 1974.

Royal Commission on Gambling. Final Report. Cmnd. 7200. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1978.

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Shaffer, H. J.; Hall, M. N.; and Vander Bilt, J. Estimating the Prevalence of Disorder Gambling Behavior in the United States and Canada: A Meta Analysis. Boston: Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College, 1997.

Skolnick, Jerome H. House of Cards: Legalization and Control of Casino Gambling. Boston: Little, Brown, 1978.

Skolnick, Jerome, and Dmbrink, John. "Legal Aspects of Public Gaming." Symposium. Connecticut Law Review 12 (1980): 661947.

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Trevelyan, George Macauley. English Social History: A Survey of Six Centuries, Chaucer to Queen Victoria. 2d edition. London: Longmans, Green, 1946.

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California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, 480

U.S. 202 (1987). FCC v. American Broadcasting Co., 347 U.S. 284

(1954). Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44 (1996).

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Video Game

Video Game


Video games are played at the arcade, at home on a television or personal computer, and as a handheld portable game. They are packaged in large consoles, game paks that can only be played on the same manufacturer's hardware (i.e. Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and Sony Playstation), and as CD-ROMs. Made up of a program that instructs the computer to display specific visual and audio effects, video games utilize cutting-edge technology in order to provide fast paced entertainment. Recent statistics show that 70% of all children in the United States have home video game systems. Over four billion dollars is spent on arcade video games annually.


A precursor to the video game, pinball machines were introduced during the 1930s and remained popular through the 1970s. In 1971, a video arcade game was produced called Computer Space. Invented by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, Computer Space was the first real coin-operated video game, but for various reasons, it never became popular. It did however, lay the groundwork for the next video game that Bushnell and Dabney introduced: the phenomenally successful arcade game Pong. Modeled after the game of ping pong, it was an electronic game in which players tried to hit a flashing dot passed their opponent's video paddle. With the success of Pong, Bushnell and Dabney started the Atari Company, and in 1975, they introduced a home version of Pong. In 1976, Warner Communication purchased Atari for $28 million and expanded its home line of video game cartridges.

At the same time Bushnell and Dabney were developing Pong, Ralph Baer, who was working for Sanders Associates, was designing a home video game system called The Odyssey. Developed in 1969, Baer's system was finally manufactured and distributed by Magnavox in 1972. The Odyssey was a package of 12 different plug-in games that were housed on circuit cards. Each game came with plastic overlays that, when placed over the television screen, simulated the appropriate background. For example, a plastic overlay of a hockey rink was included with the hockey game. The Odyssey also offered an electronic shooting gallery with four additional games and an electronic rifle. Eighty-five thousand systems were sold.

Rapid advances in electronics technology during the 1970s led to the development of more complicated games, such as Space Invaders and Pac-Man. Introduced in 1983 as a joint venture between the Namco Company of Japan and Midway of the United States, Pac-Man has sold hundreds of thousands of games and remains one of the most popular video games.

When personal computers became available, computer games were created. Many of these games were adaptations of arcade or home video game systems, however unique games were also developed. The computer game industry grew swiftly during the 1980s powered by various companies, especially the Nintendo Corporation. In the late 1980s, the CD-ROM was introduced. These disks could hold more information on them, and allowed the development of more sophisticated, interactive games. In 1995, digital video disks (DVDs) were first produced for home computers. Since they have a storage capacity over twenty times greater than CD-ROMs, they promise to revolutionize computer games.


Design is the key aspect of making all video games. It is typically done by a team of skilled computer programmers, writers, artists, and other game designers. During this phase of development, they generate the game's specifications, which includes game type, objective, and graphics.

While creating a video game is rarely a step by step process, there are a variety of tasks that must be accomplished during the development phase. In the beginning, the type and objective of the game is determined. In general, games fall within six categories, or genres, including fighting, shooting, strategy, simulations, adventure, and run, jump and avoid (RJA). Fighting games require the players to battle with each other or the computer. Presently, they are the most popular and encompass such titles as Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter. Shooting games involve battles in which the player tries to destroy enemy tanks, ships, or planes. Strategy games include such classics as chess, bridge or checkers. Simulations are games, which reproduce real life situations such as flying or driving. Adventure games are computerized versions of role-playing fantasy games. The RJA games are those like the Super Mario games in which a character tries to reach a goal while being impeded by various obstacles.

The action of the game is dependent upon its intended venue. An arcade game must have immediate action. A home version usually includes various skill levels in order to keep the player interested over a longer period of time. A handheld version of a video game is simplified to be played in miniature.

Raw Materials

Although the most important raw material in creating a video game is imagination, a number of supplies are necessary to bring that imagination to life. Once the story has been created, characters and background are drawn on storyboards, then transferred to electronic format directly by an artist or via digitization. Lifelike action is captured on film and sound is recorded on digital audio tape (DAT).

Once design is complete, a variety of raw materials are used to produce video games. This includes the materials that go into making the storage medium, the accessories, and the packaging. The most common storage mediums are floppy disks and CDs. These are made with hard plastics such as polycarbonates. CDs have a thin layer of aluminum or silver coating. Additionally, they are coated with a protective, clear acrylic coating. Floppy disks are made with a thin plastic that is coated with a magnetic material. Plastics are also used to make the accessory pieces that some computer games require. In each of the plastics used, a variety of fillers and colorants are incorporated to modify its characteristics. Typically, computer games are packaged in highly decorated cardboard boxes.

The Manufacturing

Creating a video game is a long, multifaceted process that can take up to one year to complete one game.

Creating the story

  • 1 Typically, writers are responsible for creating a game's story complete with a setting, characters, and plot. This gives the game a purpose and makes it more enjoyable for the player. It also provides an objective for the player and a guideline for the rules of the game. This information is then used to create the game's manual. Often, the inspiration for a story is derived from popular movies or books. The story is transferred to storyboards, where preliminary drawings are also added. Storyboards are a series of one-panel sketches pinned to a board. Each sketch is accompanied by story dialogue and/or character description.

Capturing action with art

After the type of game and story are outlined, the game's format can be determined. The format refers to what the player sees when playing the game. A variety of formats exist including platform, top-down, scrolling, isometric, three dimension (3D), and text. Platform games are those that feature a side view of the player's character. Top-down games give a bird's eye view of the player's character. They are often used for war games. The isometric format is a top-down game, which uses perspective tricks to give the illusion of 3D. True 3D games are just now becoming a reality with the introduction of CDs and DVDs. These represent the future of computer game formats. Text game formats have limited graphics and are only used for interactive fiction. In general, all games may use one or more of these formats.

  • 2 The artist adds drawings to storyboards, including character descriptions and arrows showing how the characters will move.
  • 3 Final pictures are created in two ways. An artist can render the final picture by creating converted graphics. Converted graphics are images that have been drawn by the artist using a computer. More life-like images are created by filming the action with an actor and then electronically digitizing the image. The artist reviews the videotaped action on a RGB monitor that produces brighter images and chooses each frame that will be used to create an action. Typically, six to 10 frames are used to show a character running/walking one step. Four to five frames are needed to illustrate a punch or a kick. The background is also created by the artist using both converted and digitized images. Though seemingly cohesive to the viewer, the background is really a collage of many different images.

Recording dialogue and sound

  • 4 Dialogue and sound effects are recorded in a sound studio using various audio techniques. Once recorded on digital audio tape (DAT), the sounds are computerized by a synthesizer—a computer that specifically alters and translates sound into data.

Writing the program

  • 5 When all of the preliminary design elements are determined, programming, or coding, can begin. The first step in this process is drawing a flowchart, which shows the logical progression of the computer program. A variety of programming languages are used such as C++, Java, or visual BASIC. The code is typically produced by a team of programmers, each working on a different phase of the game, and can take up to seven months to produce. To speed the coding process, previously developed algorithms are often modified and adapted to the new game. This is more efficient because it eliminates the need to continually rewrite similar programs and reduces the chances of serious errors. Each action can require many individual instructions written by the programmer, and roughly 250,000 individual commands are written to create a video game program. Sound and graphics must also be programmed separately.


  • 6 The testing phase of game development helps reveal fundamental design and programming problems. Testing can be completed in a number of ways. The programmers can run the game and try to discover gross problems themselves. Additionally, professional playtesters are used. These are people who are specifically trained to play the games and look for subtle errors. They are typically game designers themselves, and have experience with many types of games. Beyond finding errors, playtesters also give criticisms and suggestions to make the game better. In some cases, computer game developers use people from the general population to test games. This gives them information about consumer acceptance. The information obtained from the testing phase is reviewed. Reprogramming is then done until the game is appropriately tweeked.

Burning the disks

  • 7 When the programming is completed, the game code is transferred to a master compact disk. This disk will be used to mass produce the thousands of copies needed. The master disk is composed of a smoothly polished glass coated with an adhesive and a photo resistive material. This disk is put into a laser-cutting machine. While the disk is spun, the binary code from the computer game's program sends a signal to the laser. The laser will then cut pits in the photo resistive coating corresponding to the program. The disk is then chemically etched and given a metal coating. At this point, it is an exact replica of a finished disk.
  • 8 A metal inverse copy of the master disk is then made through a process known as electroforming. Using an electrical current, metal is deposited on the master disk surface. This inverse copy is then used to make multiple metal masters through a similar process. These metal masters are used to make multiple inverse stamping copies.
  • 9 To mass produce plastic compact disks, the stamping copies are put into a die in an injection molding machine. In this machine, polycarbonate pellets are placed in a hopper and drawn through a long screw device. While it is drawn, the plastic becomes molten. It is then injected into the die with the stamping copy. It is held under pressure for a few moments and then allowed to cool. As it cools, it hardens giving it exactly the same pattern of pits as the master copy. It is then released from the die and inspected for flaws. If any flaws are found, the disk is rejected.
  • 10 The disk is then transferred to a machine, which punches a hole in its center. It is then coated with a thin film of either aluminum or silver using a vacuum deposition technique. Next, a clear acrylic plastic is applied. Finally, the disk is transported to a silk screen assembly and a label is printed on it.

Packaging the game

  • 11 All the components of the game are transported to the packaging line. Here, each part of the game is placed in a preprinted, cardboard box. This process may either be done by hand or by automated machinery. The game boxes are then conveyored to a shrink-wrap machine that seals them in plastic. They are cased and ready for shipment.

Quality Control

The process of transferring the computer game program to a compact disk, or DVD, must be done in a clean, dust-free environment. This is because dust particles are much larger than the pits carved in a disk, and a single particle can ruin a disk. Therefore, strict quality control measures are taken to control the environment around the disk-making process. Other visual inspections are done at various points during the disk manufacture. Random samples of finished disks are also tested to make sure the program is working properly. Beyond the checks involved in disk manufacture, the other components of the game are also checked to ensure they meet the required specifications. At the end of the manufacturing process, random samples of the finished product are checked to make sure it includes all of the necessary components.

The Future

Computer game programming continues to become more sophisticated as the available hardware improves. The most important recent advancement that promises to revolutionize gaming is the development of DVD technology. This will allow a much greater amount of information to be included in the game's program. This should improve many aspects of the game such as the artificial intelligence routines, the graphics, and the special effects. Things such as video clips will be included to make the games more interactive.

Where To Learn More


Gruber, Diana. Action Arcade Adventure Set. Coriolis Group, 1994.

Katz, Arnie and Laurie Yates. Inside Electronic Game Design. Prima Publications, 1997.

Sawyer, Ben. The Ultimate Game Developers Sourcebook. Coriolis Group, 1997.


Bunn, Austin. "Joystick City." The Village Voice (December 30, 1997).

Wright, Maury. "DVD: Breathtaking Sight and Sound, Significant Challenges." EDN (August 15, 1997).


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GAMBLING. Men and women throughout history and around the world have gambled. In the early colonial days, taverns were the main meeting place—and a place to put down a bet. In addition, gamblers and those who just placed an occasional bet had gambling halls, gaming rooms, saloons, even outdoor games to wager on. Indians, judges, Mexicans, physicians, Chinese, clergymen, African Americans, salesclerks, cowboys, and professional gamblers bet their money and sometimes their possessions on games of chance. Gambling venues included logging camps, elegant steamboats, railroad cars, boxing rings, and more.

Gambling was (and is)a form of entertainment. In the early days of the nation, people worked hard and often did not live near towns, thus when they did go to town they wanted to be entertained. Gambling gave an air of fairly harmless excitement and the payoff (or loss)was immediate.

Indians and Early Gambling

The Assiniboin Indians of North Dakota had a favorite dice game. Their two-sided dice had one side granting points when it came up; the other side did not. The dice were made of pieces of broken dishes or claws from a crow, with one side painted red, the other black. Buttons or other trinkets were also used as dice. Point values for each item were agreed upon before the game began. To make the game last longer and to have more at stake, the Assiniboins often played double or nothing. They would have one round with a set object as the prize. After round one, more objects—even wives—were added to the pot as the rounds continued. Sometimes games went on two and three days and nights, breaking only for meals. The dice games continued until one of the players had lost everything. Wives were property and had no say if they were lost to another man. They just moved. But there were some men who would not bet their wives, and fatal fights sometimes ensued.

The Zuni, Papago, and Hopi Indians liked to bet on foot races. Other tribes used hand games, the equivalent of, "Button, button, who's got the button." In this hand game, a button, or other small object, was placed in a person's hand. That person then began passing the button around the circle—or at least pretended to. Whoever was, "It" had to try to discern who had the button at any given time. If he was wrong, he lost the bet. Most betting included drumming and chants that grew more enthusiastic with each round.

In the 1830s Choctaw Indians played a serious game called, "ball play" that was similar to lacrosse and involved two teams, each consisting of ten players. Sticks about two feet long with a cup fashioned on one end were used to catch and throw a ball in this competition. George Catlin, the renowned Western artist, watched such a game with close to 700 young warriors as players. Women were in charge of the betting for this particular game. At stake were mostly household items, including dogs, horses, and guns. Spectators numbered in the thousands.

On the Upper Missouri River, the Mandan Indians' favorite game was, "the game of the arrow." Each young warrior who wanted to play had to pay an entry fee of a valued possession, such as a pair of moccasins or a robe. The object was to shoot arrows as fast as possible, seeing how many arrows could be launched before the first one hit the ground. In the game that Catlin observed, one of the warriors got eight arrows off and won all the prizes ("entry fees").

Gambling on Steamboats

Initially steamboats were used only to haul freight. In January of 1812, Robert Fulton introduced his boat, the New Orleans, as the first steamboat to carry passengers. By 1860, western rivers had 735 passenger steamboats plying their waters; these boats carried gamblers, who often took on the air of gentlemen, wearing knee-length black coats, ruffled white shirts, vests, and fancy rings. Referred to as "dandies," these professional gamblers were frequently con men who fleeced their victims in less than honest wins.

The belief was that 99 percent of riverboat gamblers cheated and worked with an accomplice. The gambler and his partner(s)would board the boats at different points, thus covering up their collusion. A team consisted of two, three, or up to six men. Some would play cards, while the others would give them signals. Tips were specific puffs of cigar smoke, holding a cane in a certain manner,

wearing a hat at various angles, or anything that would not be obvious to the other players.

With their lavish frescoed walls, crystal chandeliers, and flowery carpets, the riverboats were expensive to run. The Great Republic was sold at auction in 1871 because fuel for the round trip from St. Louis to New Orleans cost $5,000.

Gambling Women

Women also gambled. Alice Tubbs, known as Poker Alice, was born Alice Ivers in Sudbury, England, in 1851; she moved to Virginia with her family in her late teens. She married a mining engineer in Colorado; his early death left her a young widow who soon became acquainted with gambling. Poker Alice learned her craft well in Colorado, practiced it in Oklahoma, and eventually found herself working as a faro dealer in South Dakota. She was apparently the only woman faro dealer that ever lived and worked in the Black Hills, primarily in Sturgis and Deadwood. Photos of Tubbs, who never played cards with strangers, always show her with a big cigar in her mouth. In the 1880s, Tubbs sometimes made $1,000 in just one evening of cards. Also a blackjack dealer and a madam, Poker Alice marched in the 1927 parade in Deadwood, South Dakota, when the town hosted President Calvin Coolidge. She died in 1930, having outlived three husbands.

Lotteries and Violence

Ironically, even though many churches frowned upon other forms of gambling, lotteries were and are accepted by nearly everyone. Many church buildings, schools, and even roads and bridges were built by proceeds from lotteries. Perhaps because the tickets did not have to be sold in the smoky saloons but could be sold by anyone, anywhere, lotteries were looked upon as a good way to raise money and were not truly considered "gambling." Some states banned them; others embraced them. States then and now, passed lottery bills, then fought over how much of the proceeds the state would receive and how they would be used.

James Monroe Pattee, a New Hampshire writing instructor, was the king of lottery sales. He migrated to California for a time then settled in Omaha, Nebraska. He created lotteries for worthy causes such as hospitals and libraries. In 1873 Nebraska outlawed lotteries and Pattee moved to Wyoming. In that state a lottery could be legally offered by buying a three-month license for $100. During his first year in Wyoming, Pattee bought a license every three months for a total of $400. He sold about $7 million worth of tickets in that year. Despite the small population of Wyoming, he was successful because he advertised in the New York Herald newspaper, thus getting out-of-state business.

Violence was often gambling's companion; perhaps the most famous murder was that of Wild Bill Hickok in Deadwood, Dakota Territory. Although Hickok had a strict policy of never sitting with his back to the door when he was playing cards, on 2 August 1866, for the first time, he sat with his back to the door in Saloon #10 and was shot in the back by Jack McCall. Hickok's poker hand—a pair of aces and a pair of eights—was from then on known as a "Deadman's Hand." The saloon is still operating.

Gambling on the Reservation

Large scale casino gambling on Indian reservations was allowed in 1987 when the Supreme Court ruled in Calfornia vs. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians that states could regulate commercial gambling on Indian reservations. Congress subsequently passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA)in 1988. Proceeds of gaming operations were to be used for economic development and welfare of tribal members. Three levels, called classes, of gambling were defined. Class I: traditional tribal and social games with nominal prizes; this class is regulated solely by the tribe. Class II: in states where such games are legal and not prohibited by federal law, bingo, lotto, punch cards, and games played among individuals (not against the house)may be allowed or licensed by the tribe. Class III: casinos, which are the most highly regulated and must be legal in the state where the reservation is located; casinos are subject to state-tribal agreements. Such compacts delineate state-tribal regulatory authority; they also cover cooperative areas of criminal justice and payments to each state for enforcement and oversight.

From passage of IGRA in 1988 through the end of 1996, revenues from gambling on the reservations increased from $212 million to $6.7 billion. Of the 554 federally recognized tribes, the Bureau of Indian Affairs reports only 146 tribes with Class III gaming facilities. More than two-thirds of Indian tribes do not offer gambling; some tribes have voted not to offer gaming on their lands.

The Prairie Island Indian Community is one of eleven reservations in Minnesota and one of the smallest in that state. Prairie Island uses the revenue from its gambling operations to pay for some of its basic services and to improve the lives of tribal members. The largest Indian gambling facility in the United States, Foxwoods Casino (run by the Mashantucket Pequots)near Ledyard, Connecticut, employs about 13,000; the entire tribe has only about 500 members.

Alcohol consumption is not a given in reservation casinos; it is up to each tribe to decide if it will allow liquor to be sold on the reservation. In South Dakota, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is a dry reservation yet it owns and operates Prairie Wind Casino. It still draws visitors—and their dollars—to the reservation.


Moulton, Candy Vyvey. The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West From 1840–1900. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writers Digest Books, 1999.

Sasuly, Richard. Bookies and Bettors: Two Hundred Years of Gambling. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1982.

MacFarlan, Allan, and Paulette MacFarlan. Handbook of American Indian Games. New York: Dover, 1985.

Eadington, William. Indian Gaming and the Law. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1998.


See alsoLotteries .

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Gambling and games of chance have been popular throughout history. The globalization of gambling has passed through a number of cycles. More so than in the past, gambling is viewed as a socially acceptable form of entertainment. While gambling activities can take many forms and vary across cultures and jurisdictions, most individuals gamble for enjoyment, for entertainment, to socialize, and to try their luck without experiencing many negative repercussions.


Gambling can be viewed on a continuum, ranging from non-gambling to social gambling to pathological gambling. While most adults gamble without experiencing many adverse consequences, a small proportion of adults (0.43%) experience significant gambling-related problems, with an even larger proportion of adolescents (46%) reporting major gambling-related problems. The essential characteristic associated with pathological gambling is that it is a persistent and recurrent maladaptive gambling behavior that negatively disrupts personal, familial, social, economic, and vocational pursuits. Given the widespread proliferation and expansion of government-regulated and sponsored forms of gambling, gambling is quickly becoming a prominent social policy issue.

Pathological gambling, conceptualized as an impulse-control disorder, results in an individuals inability to stop his or her gambling in spite of multiple negative consequences. While a greater number of males experience pathological gambling compared to females (estimates are that a ratio of 3:1 exists), pathological gamblers frequently experience a preoccupation with gambling, the need to substantially increase the amount and frequency of their wagers, have great difficulty stopping or reducing their gambling, and become extremely irritable when trying to limit their gambling. These individuals often gamble to escape problems or relieve stress, return to gambling in order to recoup losses, frequently lie to family members, peers, and friends in order to conceal their gambling losses, and commit illegal behaviors (both within and outside the home) to finance their gambling. Pathological gamblers jeopardize familial, peer, and vocational relationships in order to continue gambling and help relieve financial difficulties resulting from their gambling behavior.

There is considerable discussion as to whether some forms of gambling may be more problematic than others. Some research suggests that machine gambling (e.g., slot machines, video poker machines, video lottery terminals) and Internet gambling may be more problematic to some individuals because of their relatively low cost and the frequency and speed of playing while simultaneously allowing the player to go into a disassociative state. Other research suggests that there are definite differential patterns of playing and preferences for different forms of gambling depending upon ones age, accessibility of venues, gender, and ethnic and cultural background.

An emerging body of literature suggests that certain familial factors (high rates of family gambling problems, substance abuse problems, spouse or partners with a gambling problem), biological factors (including brain chemistry and functioning, physiological indicators of arousal and the need for stimulation, genetic considerations), attentional problems, and a wide variety of physical health problems (including cardiovascular and gastrointestinal problems and chronic pain) are associated with pathological gambling disorders. Personality disorders related to impulsivity, sensation seeking, a high degree of risk-taking, antisocial personality disorders, oppositional defiant disorders, compulsivity, psychoticism, and neuroticism, and cognitive distortions (erroneous beliefs including an illusion that one can control the outcome of random events, a lack of recognition of the notion of independence of events, the belief in a system to beat the odds) have similarly been linked to pathological gambling.

From a psychological perspective, pathological gamblers have been reported to exhibit high anxiety, depression and depressive symptomatology, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts, and a wide range of personality and mental health disorders. There is also a growing body of evidence to suggest that pathological gamblers have a variety of comorbid alcohol and substance abuse problems. While there is no personality profile of a pathological gambler per se, there are indications that an individuals psychological and mental state make certain individuals more susceptible to both gambling and the development of a gambling problem.

In spite of the large number of adverse behavioral traits associated with gambling, it is not unusual for individuals to fail to recognize their problems. They tend not to acknowledge their gambling problem and fail to seek help. Their perceived solution often rests on the big win.


Although problem gambling has been primarily thought of as an adult behavior, considerable research indicates that it remains a very popular activity among both children and adolescents. Whether one is gambling for money on personal games of skill, cards, dice, sporting events, or lottery tickets, a high percentage of children and adolescents worldwide have been found to engage in different forms of gambling.

Studies conducted since the 1990s suggest that gambling activities remain particularly attractive to todays youth and that its popularity is on the rise among both children and adolescents. Prevalence studies conducted in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Europe, and Australia all confirm the rising prevalence rates of youth involvement in both legal and illegal forms of gambling. While approximately 80 percent of high school students report having gambled for money during the past year, 4 to 6 percent of adolescents exhibit serious gambling problems, with another 10 to 14 percent of adolescents remaining at-risk for developing a serious gambling problem.

Adolescent pathological gamblers, like their adult counterparts and independent of the negative consequences resulting from their excessive gambling, continue to chase their losses, exhibit a preoccupation with gambling, and have an impaired ability to stop gambling in spite of repeated attempts and their desire to do so. The growing body of research with adolescents suggests that gambling and problem gambling is more popular among males than females, adolescent prevalence rates of problem gamblers are higher than those reported by adults, and there is a rapid movement from social gambler to problem gambler. Adolescent problem gamblers report initiating gambling at an early age (approximately ten years of age) as compared with peers who report gambling but have few gambling-related problems. These adolescents are greater risk takers in general and on gambling tasks in particular, exhibit lower self-esteem, exhibit higher depressive symptomatology, remain at heightened risk for suicide ideation and suicide attempts, have poor general coping skills, and report a significant number of major traumatic life events (e.g., parental loss, divorce).

Individuals with gambling problems are also more likely to report school- or work-related problems. Personality traits reveal adolescent pathological gamblers are more excitable, extroverted, and anxious, tend to have difficulty conforming to societal norms, experience difficulties with self-discipline, exhibit more anxiety, exhibit higher levels of impulsivity, and remain at increased risk for the development of multiple addictions.


New forms of gambling continue to be developed. With more and more governments sanctioning and regulating a multitude of different forms of gambling, its accessibility has never been easier. Problem gambling is not associated with single-trial learning. Very few individuals become addicted to the lure of gambling after their first initiation. Pathological gambling remains a progressive disorder with certain identifiable risk factors developing over time accompanied by periods of euphoria and depression.

The gambling environment today is significantly different from that of past generations. Because of its widespread acceptability, its popularity, and the enormous revenues generated from gambling, the growth of the gaming industry continues. Gambling is viewed as significantly less harmful than other potentially addictive behaviors including substance abuse, alcohol abuse, and cigarette smoking.

New forms of gambling and games will continue to emerge. Efforts at developing effective empirically sound practices concerning prevention and treatment programs have yet to be realized. Given the widespread accessibility, social acceptance and new technologies bringing gambling into the home, there remains speculation that the prevalence of pathological gambling will likely increase.


Abbott, Max, Rachel Volberg, Maria Bellringer, and Gerta Reith. 2004. A Review of Research on Aspects of Problem Gambling. Final Report. London: Responsibility for Gambling Trust.

American Psychiatric Association. 1992. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 4th ed. Washington, DC: Author.

Derevensky, Jeffrey, and Rina Gupta. 2004. Adolescents with Gambling Problems: A Review of Our Current Knowledge. e-Gambling: The Electronic Journal of Gambling Issues 10:119140.

Jacobs, Durand. 2004. Youth Gambling in North America: Long-Term Trends and Future Prospects. In Gambling Problems in Youth: Theoretical and Applied Perspectives, eds. Jeffrey Derevensky and Rina Gupta. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.

Jeffrey L. Derevensky

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GAMBLING. From the early medieval period, various forms of gambling were popular at every level of society, although the types of games played, as well as the freedom to indulge in them, was dependent on an individual's position in the social hierarchy, and subject to sustained criticism from both church and state. Blood sports such as bearbaiting and cockfighting were popular among the peasantry, and regular contests, accompanied by heavy betting, drinking, and general revelry, were a traditional part of community life.

At the other end of the social spectrum, horse racing was a pastime confined to the upper classes. The ownership and racing of horses operated within a system of royal patronage, with successive monarchsmost notably, Charles II of England (ruled 16601685), "the father of the British turf"organizing races and entering horses to compete in their name. Betting was a strictly private affair conducted among the aristocracy, who regarded participation in the sport as their exclusive right.

Lotteries began during the fifteenth century, and, although popular, were governed by politically expedient legislation that made participation irregular and often arbitrarily illegal. The most widespread form of gambling, however, was dice playing, which endured as the standard game of the entire medieval period. The most ancient and simple form of gambling, it was pursued assiduously by all sections of societyincluding the clergydespite being subject to innumerable bans and prohibitions. The Saxons, Danes, and Romans all introduced their own varieties of games and their own styles of playing, although most games tended to fall into one of two types: either based on moving counters around boards (such as the Spanish alquerque, a game similar to checkers), or guessing games based on dice throws (such as hazard). Playing cards were introduced into Europe from the East toward the end of the thirteenth century, where they grew, over the next three hundred years, from an elite pastime into a leisure activity popular with every social class. Their route of entry is uncertain: some have suggested that Marco Polo brought them back from his travels in Cathay, while others believe they were introduced by Gypsies or returning Crusaders. Whatever the case, the first mentions of cards in Europe come from Italy in 1299, from Spain in 1371, from the Low Countries (modern Belgium, Luxembourg, and Netherlands) in 1379, and from Germany in 1380. By 1465, they were sufficiently well established in Britain to be subject to an import ban.

These early cards were crafted by hand on copper and ivory as well as card and wood, usually by professional painters who found patronage in aristocratic households. The first woodcuts on paper were, in fact, playing cards. (The term Kartenmahler or Kartenmacher, 'painter' or 'maker of cards', appears in German in 1402.) At first, their expense put cards out of reach of all but the wealthiest in society, with the result that widespread playing was initially restricted to the upper classes. Gambling was fashionable among this group, with high-stakes "betting orgies" frequently lasting for days and serving as a marker of status and prestige as much as a straightforward leisure pursuit. Cards and games were symbolic systems that represented the cultural climate and social order that surrounded them. Medieval card games such as brelan, pair, gleek, and primero were based on the principals of "melds" and "murnivals"pairing and joining cards in ranksreflecting the hierarchical social organization, represented as the "great chain of being" in the Middle Ages.

The development of the printing press in the fifteenth century was crucial to the history of cards, transforming them from the playthings of the aristocracy into mass-produced commodities enjoyed by all ranks of society. The presses also gave cards the name they still have today. The medieval Latin charta, 'sheet of paper', was taken as shorthand for the playing cards, which were, for a time, the presses' main industry. The word survives as the standard term for cards throughout Europe, variously as cart, carte, Karte, karta, and kartya.

Despite its widespread popularity, attempts were continually made by both church and state to limit or outlaw gambling. Although ostensibly designed to curb the excesses of the general population, most legislation targeted the poor and was uneven in its application. Initially, prohibitions imposed by the Catholic Church were pragmatic and aimed at steering the population away from sedentary activities that were seen to encourage idleness and toward more organized exertions, such as sports. Ultimately, the aim was to create a fit workforce that could be easily rallied into an indigenous army, a definite advantage in the violent climate of the Middle Ages. As such, various edicts attempted to regulate gambling according to social position. From the time of the Crusades, dicing by any soldier below the rank of knight was forbidden.

Cardplaying on workdays had been banned since 1397, and was further outlawed when a statute of Henry VIII (ruled 15091547) confined all gambling among the working population to Christmas, the assumption being that, as they would be celebrating anyway, its disruptive effects would be minimal. After the Reformation, attempts to outlaw gambling were dramatically increased by the Protestant bourgeoisie, who objected to it on the ideological grounds that it undermined the work ethic and squandered time and money.

Criticism continued throughout the Enlightenment, when the emphasis shifted to the disorderly effects of gambling within rational societyagain, aimed primarily at the poor. Across the continent, legislation during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries attempted to remove gambling from the mass of the population, primarily by fiscal means: imposing taxes on cards and dice, charging hefty entrance fees for horse races, and increasing the price of lottery tickets.

At the same time, many European countries introduced laws limiting public gambling to licensed premises, while restricting the granting of licenses to members of the nobility and upper classes. The result of such legislation was the stratification of public betting and the effective outlawing of gambling for the majority of the population, with the poor restricted to playing in illegal, unlicensed taverns, and the upper classes free to indulge in a wide variety of games with impunity.

See also Class, Status, and Order ; Games and Play ; Lottery ; Printing and Publishing ; Roma (Gypsies) ; Sports .


Ashton, John. The History of Gambling in England. Montclair, N.J., 1969. Originally published in 1898.

Cotton, Charles. The Compleat Gamester. London, 1674.

Kavanagh, Thomas. Enlightenment and the Shadows of Chance: The Novel and the Culture of Gambling in Eighteenth-Century France. Baltimore and London, 1993.

Reith, Gerda. The Age of Chance: Gambling in Western Culture. London and New York, 1999.

Gerda Reith

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Background. Colonists knew many board, card, and gambling games that were popular in Europe. For the most part these were inside activities played in taverns or private homes. Often they were played for money and rewarded both luck and skill. Men and women played various kinds of games with each other. Heavy gambling was a male vice since women did not have access to the taverns and private clubs where much of this play occurred. During the eighteenth century taverns became larger, offering more rooms and thus a greater variety of games and diversions. While the law attempted to limit such recreation right from the beginning, especially on the Sabbath, it was not successful. People wanted to play and used even Sunday time to do it.

Backgammon. Among the oldest games known to humans is backgammon. Ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece, Japan,

China, and the Near East all have versions of a game played on a board using dice and pieces moved along the board. By the Middle Ages all European nations had a form of backgammon, also called trictrac. The Spanish, French, Dutch, and English all brought it with them to their colonies. As early as 1656 New Netherland listed backgammon or ticktack among a host of other idle and forbidden exercises and plays which were banned on Sunday. Like so many other games, backgammon was portable and required little equipment. It could be played on a table with the points inlaid into it or on a portable game board or box. Taverns and coffeehouses often had multiple games going at once, each making the characteristic click of the pieces being laid down.

Billiards. Played on a special table with a cue and balls, billiards was known to the many European nationalities that settled in America. Because the average billiard table was twelve feet long, it was played in public houses, taverns, or the homes of the wealthy. Southern plantation owners were drawn to billiards for a variety of reasons. The table itself made a statement about wealth, and the game required only two people. William Byrd II outfitted Westover, his plantation on the James River, with many diversions, including a billiard table. In 1711 he confided to his diary that Mr. Mumford and I played at billiards till dinner.... In the afternoon we played at billiards again and I lost two bits. Byrd also on occasion played with his wife.

Cards. Playing cards, like backgammon, is an old recreation and is known through many parts of the world. By the eve of colonization all European nations had playing cards, often of great beauty. These were standardized into four suits, although different games called for different numbers of playing cards. Card playing came to the New World with the earliest colonists and was recognized as a great seducer of peoples time. The Dutch tried to regulate card playing on the Sabbath. Early Virginia, not usually thought of as being overly restrictive, was faced with so many problems that the government there passed harsh laws against idleness, which included card and dice games. A Massachusetts law directed ordinary citizens to get rid of their playing cards in 1631. William Penns Great Law of 1682 prohibited playing and placed a fine or five days in jail on all lawbreakers. None of this worked, and by the end of the seventeenth century card playing was a normal part of tavern life everywhere.

Colonial Games. Three colonial card games were whist, euchre, and piquet. Whist, also called whisk, came into its own in the eighteenth century. It is a game of fifty-two cards played by two pairs of partners who try to win tricks; it is an ancestor of modern bridge. Euchre was a French game and possibly came into America through French Louisiana. It uses a thirty-two-card deck, ace through seven. It is also played by four players, two to a team, and has one suit as trump. Piquet was originally a French game that spread to other parts of Europe. It could be played by two people, so it was suitable for home entertainment. Piquet required a deck like euchre. In piquet both sides declare what they hold, thus providing room to lie. William Byrd and his wife, Lucy Parke, played piquet during quiet afternoons or evenings at Westover, but as Byrd recorded in his secret diary, his wife could get annoyed with him when she found him cheating.


William Byrd II kept a diary in which he recorded his daily activities. As a member of Virginias Royal Council he spent some time in the capital, Williamsburg. This entry from Williamsburg is dated 17 April 1712:

After dinner [lunch] I went to Mrs. Whaleys where I saw my sister Custis and my brother who is just returned. Here we drank some tea till the evening and then I took leave and went to the coffeehouse, where I played at cards and won 40 shillings [£2] but afterwards I played at dice and lost almost £10. This gave me a resolution to play no more at dice and so I went to my lodgings where I said a short prayer and had good health, good thoughts, and good humor, thank God Almighty.

An unskilled laborer in Virginia at this time would get ten pounds for ten weeks worth of work.

Source: Louis B. Wright and Marion Tinling, eds., The Great American Gentleman: The Secret Diary of William Byrd of Westover 17091712 (New York: Capricorn Books, 1963).

Lower-Order Games. All males in colonial America had opportunities to play games and to gamble on their outcome. In the New York City of the 1740s male slaves had the leisure and the wherewithal to play and gamble as whites did. At the alehouse of John Hughson they gambled at cards. As children they played with marbles. They played for pennies, threw dice, and played a game called papa. Taverns catered to slaves and to lower-class

whites, offering them an outlet for competitive urges and a place away from the eyes of masters and spouses.


Berthold Fernow, The Records of New Amsterdam from 1653 to 1674 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1976);

Daniel Horsmanden, The New York Conspiracy (Boston: Beacon, 1971);

Louis B. Wright and Marion Tinling, eds., The Great American Gentleman: The Secret Diary of William Byrd of Westover 17091712 (New York: Capricorn Books, 1963);

Oswald Jacoby and John R. Crawford, The Backgammon Book (New York: Viking Press, 1970);

J. Thomas Joble, Sport, Amusements, and Pennsylvania Blue Laws, 16821973, dissertation, Pennsylvania State University, 1974;

Kym S. Rice, Early American Taverns: For the Entertainment of Friends and Strangers (Chicago: Regnery Gateway, 1983);

Nancy L. Struna, People of Prowess: Sport, Leisure, and Labor in Early Anglo-America (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996).

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Game Controllers

Game Controllers

Game controllers are intricate hardware devices that allow game players to send instructions to a computer, which can range in size from a desktop computer to a handheld proprietary game machine. The wide variety of game controllers includes such devices as game pads, joysticks, paddles, steering wheels, fishing rods, aircraft yokes, light guns, and rifles.

History of Controllers

When Atari game consoles became popular in the 1970s, the standard game controller had a single button in the corner of the four-inch square base, which held a three-inch joystick. Players could maneuver the screen cursor by moving the joystick with one hand, and pressing the button with the thumb of the other hand. The only feedback was an occasional "blip" or "doink" noise from primitive speakers, and relatively slow, jerky movements on the screen.

Joystick design evolved to include a taller, ergonomically shaped handle with a trigger mechanism and a miniature stick at the end, called a top hat. With this device, players could squeeze such triggers with their forefingers and maneuver the top hat using one of their thumbs. These controllers often featured additional buttons on both the stick and the base that performed specific actions dictated by the game's software. Games were made more realistic with livelier sound effects from more powerful speakers.

While the one-handed joystick was sufficient for early games, it proved awkward for other sophisticated software. Soon two-handled yokes, simulating a pilot's cockpit, were introduced. Car racing games were made more realistic with the introduction of steering wheel controllers, some of which included brake and gas pedals. Gun fighting games spawned the introduction of light guns and rifles. Even fishing games were enhanced with the introduction of rod-like sticks with buttons to help the player simulate casting and fishing.

Controllers for proprietary games, such as Nintendo's "Game Boy," Sega's "Dreamcast," and Sony's "PlayStation," became special two-handed devices, each with two one-inch joysticks and many multifunction action buttons.

How They Work

Although modern game controllers sport many different features, they operate in essentially the same way as joysticks do. As the stick or indicator is moved from side to side, the position of the handle is converted into a number, known as the "x" coordinate. Likewise, as the stick is moved forward and back, the handle's position is measured with a "y" coordinate. Using these xy coordinates, the computer can precisely track the stick's direction as it moves. If the stick has a rotational capability, the r-axis is tracked as well.

To calculate the distance the stick is moved, the controller's positioning sensor uses a capacitor and potentiometer . As electrical current flows through the potentiometer, the current is temporarily collected by the capacitor, which discharges it only when a certain charge is reached, say five volts. When the stick is in the resting position, not pushed from the center, the capacitor collects and discharges the current rapidly. As the joystick is pushed farther from the center, the capacitor collects and discharges current more slowly. By measuring the number of milliseconds required for the capacitor to charge and discharge, the game adapter card tracks the stick's exact distance from center.

In newer joysticks, the capacitor and potentiometer have been replaced with an optical gray-scale position sensor, which measures the amount of light emitted by an LED (light emitting diode) to track the stick's position. When a button is pushed (to simulate jumping a barrel or hitting a ball), a contact switch sends an electrical signal to the computer's game adapter card and the game software uses the signal to start the intended action. When the button is released, another signal ends the action.

Some controllers, such as those for Sony's "PlayStation 2" and Microsoft's "Xbox," measure the amount of pressure used to push a button. When a button is pushed lightly, the button's curved contact barely touches the conductive strip mounted on the controller's circuit board. But when a button is pressed forcefully, more of the button's contact touches the conductive strip. Therefore, the level of conductivity is greater, signaling to the computer that this is a more intense action than that indicated with a lighter touch.

Force Feedback Controllers

Introduced by several manufacturers in 1997, force feedback controllers allow players to experience tactile stimulation to enhance their gaming experience. In the handgrip of each controller is a built-in electric motor with an unbalanced weight attached to its shaft. When power is supplied to the motor, it spins the unbalanced weight. Ordinarily, such an imbalance would cause the motor to wobble, but since the motor is securely attached to the controller, the wobble is translated into a vibration that shakes the entire handgrip and is felt by the game player.

The force and duration of the wobble in dictated by a waveform , which is a graph or formula that tells the software when and how to turn on and off the motor. For example, if the game player drives a car that runs into a wall, the wobble will be sudden and will continue for perhaps a second or two. On the other hand, if the game player is a firing machine gun, the resulting wobble will rapidly accelerate and decelerate many times a second for as long as the button, the "machine gun trigger," on the controller is pressed. Likewise, if the game player is driving a tank over rough terrain, the controller will experience a series of wobbles that correspond to the ground's bumps and dips.

As microprocessors have become smaller and cheaper, they have been integrated into game controllers, greatly expanding their capabilities. For example, each Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback Pro Joystick has a 25-megahertz microprocessor in the base to interpret software commands that dictate the feedback motion. When the command is received, the microprocessor accesses a read-only memory (ROM) chip, which permanently stores 32 movement effects and unleashes the correct movement on demand. Each movement corresponds to a certain waveform. If the software should dictate a waveform that is not already loaded on the ROM chip, the data can be downloaded to a two-kilobyte random access memory (RAM) chip for the microprocessor to use.

see also Games; Input Devices.

Ann McIver McHoes


White, Ron. How Computers Work, 6th ed. Indianapolis, IN: Que, 2002.

Internet Resources

Xbox Website. Microsoft Corporation. <>

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291. Gambling

  1. Atlantic City New Jersey city has become the Las Vegas of the East. [Am. Hist.: Misc.]
  2. Balibari, Chevalier de professional gambler and adventurer. [Br. Lit.: Barry Lyndon ]
  3. Beaujeu, Monsieur de known for his betting. [Br. Lit.: Fortunes of Nigel ]
  4. Bet-a-million Gates wealthy American industrialist John Warne Gates (18551911). [Am. Culture: Misc.]
  5. Brady, Diamond Jim (18561917) diamond-attired rail magnate and financier who loved to gamble. [Am. Hist.: Payton, 192]
  6. Camptown Races Fosters ode to betting. [Pop. Music: Van Doren, 192]
  7. Cincinnati Kid, the one of the shrewdist gamblers east of the Mississippi. [Cinema: Halliwell, 462]
  8. Clonbrony, Lord absentee landlord is compulsive gambler. [Br. Lit.: The Absentee ]
  9. Consus ancient Roman god of horse-racing and counsel. [Rom. Myth.: Zimmerman, 68]
  10. Detroit, Nathan his obsession with crap games so persistent that it even keeps him from getting married. [Musical Comedy: Damon Runyon Guys and Dolls in On Stage, 322]
  11. devils bones epithet for dice. [Folklore: Jobes, 436]
  12. Google, Barney hopelessly in love with the ponies. [Comics: Horn, 99100]
  13. Ivanovich, Alexei irrevocably drawn to betting tables. [Russ. Lit.: The Gambler ]
  14. Las Vegas city in Nevada notorious for its gambling casinos since 1945. [Am. Hist.: Payton, 382]
  15. Lucky, Mr. alias Joe Adams, gambler who owns the Fortuna, fancy supper club and gambling yacht. [TV: Terrace, II, 117]
  16. Maverick family name of two brothers, Bret and Bait; self-centered and untrustworthy gentlemen gamblers. [TV: Terrace, II, 80]
  17. Minnie plays poker to save Jack Johnsons life. [Ital. Opera: Puccini, Girl of the Golden West, Westerman, 361]
  18. Monte Carlo town in Monaco principality, in southeast France; a famous gambling resort. [Fr. Hist.: NCE, 1819]
  19. Mutt and Jeff hapless punters always looking for a quick buck. [Comics: Horn, 508509]
  20. Pit, the Board of Trades cellar, where all bidding occurs. [Am. Lit.: The Pit. Magill I, 756758]
  21. Queen of Spades, The Aleksandr Pushkins short story about the downfall of the gambler Germann. [Russ. Lit.: Benét, 833]
  22. Smiley, Jim bets his frog can outjump any other; loses by sabotage. [Am. Lit.: The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County ]

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175. Gambling

See also 73. CHANCE ; 176. GAMES

a system of betting used at horseracing tracks under which holders of winning tickets divide the total amount wagered in proportion to their wagers.
a devotee of games involving dice.
the casting of lots, as in a gambling game.
totalizator, totalizer
a machine used in pari-mutuel betting for posting odds and results.

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