Gambling Boom

Will the gaming industry's growth hurt society?


Only a decade ago, gambling was a simple mix of lotteries, parimutuel wagering and casinos aimed at adults. But in just a decade, gaming has evolved into a vast entertainment industry that is spreading across the American heartland and competing with Orlando for families' vacation dollars. Gross annual revenues from legalized gaming have reached $30 billion -- six times the box-office revenues from motion pictures. Further growth is anticipated as casinos proliferate on Indian reservations and riverboats, and video-gambling devices and innovative “scratch” games spark additional revenues. Meanwhile, mental health professionals worry that greater access to wagering may lead to increases in compulsive gambling -- a disorder that has been likened to alcohol and tobacco addiction.

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