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National Gambling Impact Study Commission Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 1999
265 pages
This report of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission presents findings from a comprehensive legal and factual study of the social and economic implications of gambling in the United States, along with recommendations designed to provide a coherent framework for action.
The study involved receiving testimony from hundreds of experts and members of the public in a series of hearings around the country; making several site visits; commissioning original research; conducting surveys of the existing literature; and soliciting and receiving input from a broad array of individuals and organizations. The most salient fact about gambling in America -- and the impetus for the creation of the Commission -- is that over the past 25 years, the United States has been transformed from a Nation in which legalized gambling was a limited and relatively rare phenomenon into one in which such activity is common and increasing. Currently, all but two States have some form of legalized gambling. Pari-mutuel racetracks and betting are the most widespread form and are now legal in over 40 States; lotteries have been established in 37 States and the District of Columbia, with more States poised to follow; Indian casinos operate in every region of the country. The heart of the debate over gambling pits possible economic benefits against assumed social costs. Because this debate involves highly subjective, nonquantifiable factors, the assessment of gambling impacts is a controversial exercise. The Commission favors a pause in the expansion of gambling so governments may do what few if any have done: survey the results of their decisions and determine whether they have chosen wisely. Currently, virtually no State has conformed its decisions regarding gambling to any overall plan or even to its own stated objectives. In every State, gambling policy is more a collection of incremental and disconnected decisions than the result of deliberate purpose. The record of the Federal Government is even less commendable. Without such a pause and reflection, the future does look worrisome. A likely scenario would be for gambling to continue to become more and more common, ultimately omnipresent in citizens' lives and those of their children, with consequences no one can now know. Appendixes include a catalog of gambling laws, regulations, and ordinances, extensive references, and a subject index