The attitude of the authorities in France has always been ambivalent as far as casinos are concerned. The French penal code outlaws gambling, but then special exceptions are allowed. For a long time, French casinos were the most splendid in Europe, but by 1987 they were becoming decrepit and were unable to modernize because of very strict regulations. Until that year they were not permitted to have machine gambling. They were doomed to go under. The French casinos’ contribution to total earnings from gambling (2%) was derisory compared to that of German casinos (9%). France took first place in Europe in terms of its total number of casinos, but only sixth place in casino revenues. Casino earnings per resident were less than one-half the earnings of casinos in the Netherlands, three times less than in Germany and the United Kingdom, and six times less than in Spain. While casino revenues in all other European countries were doubling in the early years of the decade the revenues in French casinos were falling. The other countries permitted casinos to have slot machines.
The discussions in the National Assembly in 1987 were quite animated, but in the end economic interests won the day, given that around 10,000 jobs in casinos were at stake, as well as considerable tax revenues both for the state and, more important still, for those municipalities that possessed a casino. Among the political parties, those on the right voted for the authorization of slot machines, and the interior minister, Charles Pasqua, signed the decree in 1987, just before leaving the government. Pierre Jox, who took over from him in a government of the left, imposed a limit of sixteen, however, on the number of casinos that were permitted to have machines. There were 138 casinos.
The appearance of the machines marked a decisive turnaround point for these casinos. It gave them a new lease on life. The changes were profound for the manner in which the casinos operated and for their clientele. Although the machines were confined to only a small number of the casinos, the overall casino revenues increased almost 60% in one year. Pressure on the government mounted accordingly, and in 1991 all the other casinos – then only 83 in number – were allowed machines. Today there are 150 casinos.
Numerous changes have taken place in the world of the casino since the advent of machines. The decor of the casinos has changed as have opening hours, the ages of players, the amounts of money wagered, and the winnings. The access to the slot machine rooms in the casinos is free, whereas the traditional games areas required admission charges, typically fifty French francs. The slot areas may be entered without showing identification cards, except to demonstrate that one is at least eighteen years old. Some casinos had operated only seasonally before; now all are open around the year, and they are now open for extended hours. Dress codes have changed, and in some cases they have been eliminated. The gambling rooms no longer require that players remain subdued and quiet even when engaged in large winning or losing experiences. Neon lights have invaded the gambling space as well, along with the sounds of changing coins. Slot rooms have even introduced rock music.
As a result the French casinos are pulling in more people than they used to. At peak periods players have to wait to get at the machines. Players can engage in activity with a minimum of resources – one franc for a play – compared to high minimum bets at table games. The possibilities of big wins are more apparent as well, as machines have linked jackpots. The socioeconomic makeup of players has changed, as casinos are no longer the private reserve of the affluent. Casinos have become increasingly popular, with the largest ones receiving as many as 10,000 people a week, where before a crowd of several hundred on any evening would be considered large. The new clientele is not only more numerous but also more representative of the society as a whole. Women have also begun to make their appearance in the casinos, providing 30% of the business, whereas before 1987, they were a minuscule portion of the patronage. Immigrants now flock to the casinos as well, as do older people.
In the final analysis the casino operators have been quite pleased at seeing large numbers of small stakes players instead of small numbers of high rollers. The machines represent over 80% of the casino play, and the casino establishments are realizing profits unimagined but a dozen years ago.
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Las Vegas, Nevada, is a very unlikely place to find American history. After all, in this city people worship the future as they always look to the next pull of the handle, roll of the dice, or turn of the card. Also, they make a point out of forgetting that last loss. Just as a gambler would choose to “blow up” (figuratively) all past failures in the casinos, local entrepreneurs choose to “blow-up” (literally) the evidence of the city’s seamy past. Las Vegas implodes casinos. The city blows-up its history.
First, the Dunes fell in 1993, then the Landmark was imploded in 1995, and in 1996, the Sands bit the desert dust. The Dunes was pushed aside to make way for the new Bellagio Resort, the Landmark made way for a convention center parking lot, and the Sands (once the building was removed) became the site of the $2 billion Venetian Casino Hotel. Two of the implosions were used as footage for Hollywood movies. So there were economic and commercial reasons for taking these three icons away from our sight. But perhaps there were other motives in getting these venerable locations out of our minds. We do not have even a single plaque to recognize the significance of the locations, but if we did? Maybe one would simply say “Hoffa,” another might say “Watergate,” and the third just possibly might say “Prelude to Dallas, 1963.”
The Landmark was where Watergate began, because it was the reason behind Howard Hughes’s loan to Pres. Richard Nixon – and it is generally believed that it was not a loan, it was a bribe given so that when Nixon was elected, he would remove an antitrust action so that Hughes could buy the Landmark. Democratic Party chairman Larry O’Brien was working for Howard Hughes when the bribe went thorough, and it was information about that bribe that Nixon’s people were trying to get out of O’Brien’s Watergate office. I personally talked to Howard Hughes’s guy Robert Maheu, and Maheu said absolutely, the Watergate break-in was to get information about the bribe on the Landmark.
The Dunes just may have provided the motivation for the murder of Jimmy Hoffa. It was money from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (the Teamsters’ union) that went to finance the Dunes – and Teamsters’ money was spread around Las Vegas—but the Dunes was the main place. The Teamsters’ loans had all sorts of crooked things around them. There were invitations to skim, and Hoffa got kickbacks on the loans. Hoffa’s successor Frank Fitzsimmons kept the loans going after Hoffa was in prison and then he kept them going after Hoffa was pardoned, but Hoffa could not run for union office.
Hoffa wanted to ingratiate himself with the Nixon administration. The federal government passed a new law in 1974 called the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, giving the Department of Labor and the Federal Bureau of Investigation special powers to investigate and prosecute union pension funds that were being misused. I worked for the new pension administration in 1976 and 1977, and the story was still in the rumor mill. In 1974, Hoffa starts singing to the government in exchange for a change in his pardon so he could run for union office, and he was murdered. And what was he singing about before he was murdered? The Dunes. He was telling the government how Fitzsimmons was skimming money out at the Dunes much as he had done. Hoffa told about the Teamsters’ loan structure for constructing the property.
Ah! But the historical possibilities that lurked in the hallways of the Sands, at one time the most famous of all the resorts on the Las Vegas Strip. Denton and Morris (2001) tell many of the seedy stories that came out of the Sands. This was the home of Frank Sinatra and his “Rat Pack” This is where he held a secret ownership and where he solidified his alliances with Chicago mobster Sam Giancana. I always pointed to the Sands and said, well, in my mind it’s as good as the theory that Lee Harvey Osward acted alone. The theory that there was a plot to assassinate the president. If there was, it may have started at the Sands. It was not just the Rat Pack. The Sands was John F. Kennedy’s casino; that is where he met Judy Campbell Exner, through Peter Lawford (Rat Pack member and Kennedy brother-in-law) and Frank Sinatra. She was also the girlfriend of Sam Giancana, who was working with Salvatore Traficante to kill Fidel Castro. One scenario was that killing Kennedy was Castro’s revenge, because Kennedy was going with the girlfriend and must know about the Mob plot to kill Castro. Another scenario was that the Mob was compromising Kennedy and that they had the fix in that Kennedy would back off of Mob activities, but his brother Bobby Kennedy was a wild card and would not stop, and sort of screwed everything up, and the assassination was to get at Bobby Kennedy. But where did it start? The Sands (see Davis 1989).
I think it’s beautiful – the triple. Of course, I am happy to repeat the myths. It is a lot of history. Maybe now we will be more sterilized, part of the “we’re-a-clean-wonderful-town” thing. But it takes a little bit of the glamour away from Las Vegas.
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The casino is a social institution encompassing an array of interactions that focus upon patterned financial risk taking-gambling. Gambling is an activity that reflects the cultural values of a society. Indeed, the casino may be a microcosm of all society, sometimes an institution for social escape, sometimes an alternative social support system, sometimes an extension of a society. Accordingly we can find that the Latin American casinos reflect a dominant value in society – machismo.
In 1989, I witnessed casino managers setting up a cockfighting ring in the casino showroom of Casino del Caribe in Cartegena, Colombia. Locals were invited to bring in their prize birds for matched fights to the death. Actually the casino did not participate in betting on the fights, but it did permit its patrons to do so. The holding of a cockfight in a Latin American casino is doubly symbolic of the main cultural value extant in the society.
Anthropologist Clifford Gertz, in his “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight,” offers the arena of the cockfight as a metaphor for life on a South Seas island. He writes, “As much of America surfaces in a ball park, on a golf links, at a race track, or around a poker table, much of Bali surfaces in a cock ring… only apparently cocks that are fighting there. Actually, it is men”. He continues, “In the cockfight, man and beast, good and evil, ego and id, the creative power of aroused masculinity and the destructive power of loosened animality fuse in a bloody drama of hatred, cruelty, violence, and death”. Gertz related that the owner of the winning cock takes the losing bird home to eat, but in doing so engenders feelings of embarrassment mixed with “moral satisfaction, aesthetic disgust, and cannibal joy”.
Actually, as a legally recognized event, the cockfight is usually confined to Latin American countries. It is in these countries that the set of ideas called machismo is most blatantly recognized and accepted as a guiding course of conduct for many members of society.
What is machismo? What does it mean, and where does it come from? Machismo has been called a “system of ideas,” a “worldview,” an “attitude,” a “style,” and a “personality constellation”.
Macho is a term dating back to at least the thirteenth century. The central value among the qualities of macho is maleness. Webster’s New World Dictionary (1975) defines macho as “strong or assertive masculinity”, and Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (1984) defines macho as “aggressively virile.” One achieves the ideal of maleness by displaying fearless courage and valor, welcoming challenges of danger and even death with daring. Positive values of pride, courage, honor, charisma, and loyalty are accompanied with negative values of recklessness and aggressiveness carried to extremes of violence. The macho man is quick to take insult, and he refuses to back away from fights. In sexual relations machismo is associated with chauvinistic behaviors. The woman is in all ways a subordinate partner in relationships.
Economic theories focus on the lack of employment, poverty, and the need of the male to migrate to other locations for economic sustenance – for opportunities to support his family. These are seen as forces taking the male away from the home and placing the young male child under the yoke of his mother. The child aggressively seeks to assert a male role in behavior designed to show an independence from his mother.
The ideas of machismo also are derived from a societal need for hero worship. El Cid, Don Juan, Pancho Villa—these and others stand up to the forces that subjugate the males of the society. They are revered for their charismatic appeal. The macho society becomes a society willing to follow, and the strongman ruler is idealized.
Machismo is manifested in myriad ways in the Latin American casino.
Charismatic Authority Structures
The forces of machismo have left a heavy measure of charismatic authority upon Latin American political entities. The caudillo – or “man on horseback” – gains power through battles where mystical leadership traits may be displayed. As a ruler, these traits allow him to win support for his decisions. Respect is only diluted if he relinquishes authority to subordinates. He certainly is very reluctant to permit alternative authority structures such as legislative assemblies to share real power with him.
The Latin casino industry is too often dependent upon the whims of leaders, and it often suffers dislocations when leadership changes hands. Many jurisdictions operate according to presidential decrees rather than deliberative legislative policy.
Violence: Suppressed but Ever Present
The machismo syndrome includes a glorification of violence and a measure of reverence for tools of violence. As suggested above, the macho man believes that the knife and gun, phallic symbols as they are, nevertheless are integral to feelings of manliness. The beliefs would be quite compatible with those of the board of directors of the National Rifle Association.
I asked the manager of the Royal Casino in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, if the sign was serious. He assured me that it was. The sign greeted visitors as they entered the casino door. It read (in both Spanish and English): “For everyone’s security, no weapons are permitted in the casino. Thank you.” When the casino first opened, the management installed twelve lockers to hold patrons’ guns. On the first day the lockers were completely full. Quickly the casino ordered an additional dozen lockers. These are now regularly full of weapons.
The casino managers interviewed in this study denied that violence ever erupted in their casinos. Several establishments, however, most notably those operated by governments, kept medical doctors on premises at all times when the gaming rooms were open. The casinos were certainly mindful of the stress associated with gaming wins and losses and were in a state of readiness in case of strokes or heart attacks.
Creditors, Debtors, and the Sense of Honor
A manifestation of machismo is witnessed in the ability to gain access to money. The macho can successfully borrow money. The true machismo finds ways not to pay it back. This kind of attitude can be dangerous for a casino organization.
Casinos in Latin America, especially ones managed by Americans, have been “stung” by local machos. They learned that it is easy to make loans to local players, but it is very difficult to get repayment. When they tried to collect, they found they were “insulting” the borrower by suggesting that he was indebted to them. Some casinos will make loans only through local agents or if guaranteed by a local businessperson.
The sign on the side of the mountain hovers over the national capital. It is brightly illuminated in the evening, seeming to almost be the symbol of Tegucigalpa, capital city for a “sovereign” nation. The sign simply reads, Coca Cola. One of the driving forces of machismo is the notion that the male must personally compensate for feelings of inferiority derived from the subjugation of local populations by foreign interests, colonial masters from Europe, or economic masters from north of the Rio Grande. For this reason, most of the countries with casinos insist that gaming work forces consist of local citizens only.
Gender Roles in the Casinos
The casinos of Latin America exhibit employment discrimination against women. Several casinos do have women dealers. These invariably are gaming halls controlled by Americans or foreign nationals and those in Puerto Rico. In Vina Del Mar, Chile, women are permitted to work only on low-stakes games or games not considered to be games for serious players.
Discrimination against women is defended with phrases such as “We would like to have women dealers someday. But we are not ready for that now.” In one casino I was told that it would not be good. “It is the Latin blood, you know.” Part of the message was that male players did not feel comfortable having women controlling their fate by turning cards or spinning the wheels. The casinos felt that the male players would harass the women dealers and seek to compromise their integrity at the games. The casino operators know that the macho man is just too much; the women inevitably submit.
The Games Machos Play
The macho man is favored by supernatural forces. If he is brave, he will keep the favor of his gods. Bravery is really more important than cleverness or rationality. Games such as craps and blackjack offer very good odds to the player, but the good odds can be exploited only by educated play, which involves a long-term commitment to the gaming activity. The machos favor casino games of roulette and baccarat, games based upon the luck factor. In roulette the macho challenges fate by going for the single number.
When playing blackjack, strategy play is rarely seen, and card counters are almost nonexistent. Players would often split tens, and then they hit 18s and 19s. It seemed that a successful hit on a 19 was evidence of daring and a display of manliness.
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The automotive industry came to Detroit by accident. The industry could have been located elsewhere. But Henry Ford set up shop in Detroit. There he applied ideas of mass assembly and economies of large scale to the construction and distribution of automobiles. Detroit was centrally located with railroad lines and Great Lakes transportation. It attracted the best labor from populations swelling with European immigrants. Ford’s successes attracted other industry innovators and leaders. With his leadership, Detroit came to hold undisputed leadership in the auto industry that lasted into the 1960’s.
Today when we think of quality, however, we do not think of the American automakers. We look to the Japanese, who have cornered a third of our domestic market. Although just twenty years ago Detroit was on a roll, that ended. Similarly, for sixty years, when people thought of casinos, they thought of Nevada. Now there is competition. Will Nevada share the same fate as Detroit?
In 1931 Nevada legalized casino gambling. In the 1940s gaming personalities such as Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky, and Moe Dalitz played roles similar to those played by Henry Ford: They made their product accessible to ordinary people. In the world market, at the same time, the effects of war kept other countries from embracing mass-produced gambling. Now, however, there is casino gambling in many areas of the North American continent and in a preponderance of countries of the world.
Let us look at the factors that led to the downfall of Detroit and ask if they will have the same impact upon Nevada.
Groupthink. Detroit was “blindsided” as the forces of groupthink led automakers to believe that their success would last forever.
Is groupthink present in Nevada? Casino managers may feel they “know it all.” Yet in order to maintain a dominant market position, they must accept new ideas whatever their source. Yet this is not the case. Nevada’s larger and more fluid casino leadership group reaches out for new knowledge. Casino projects need new financing, and the financing necessarily comes from the outside. With the outside money comes new ideas.
Innovations in marketing. Henry Ford achieved profits by marketing a basic product to the masses. The notion of making a few models to realize economies of scale became part of management thinking. Year-to-year model changes were essentially cosmetic. When customers wanted real variety, Detroit did not give it. Japan did. The Japanese manufacturers demonstrated an ability to introduce new models by taking only three years to produce a new product. Detroit took five years.
In the gaming field, Nevada may view production as a mass operation allowing for cosmetic changes only. The new operators on the rivers and on the reservations, however, many of whom are Nevadans, are showing that they can put new approaches into place quickly, aimed at completely different markets.
Customer demand. Detroit would not listen to the customer. The “Big Three” – General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler – kept making big cars. They were the last to hear the cry for quality. “Recall” became the industry byword. Competitors came to understand that problems with cars were customer problems.
Customers coming to Las Vegas have many demands, and sometimes Nevada has been slow to listen.
Customers want more than just a gambling table. One group of foreign casino tourists asked for a tour of Death Valley. Management balked. They were a gambling house. They refused to help find a means to take the group to Death Valley, hoping, of course, that the group would decide to remain in Las Vegas. The group located a bus company that would transport them. They were given a very complete tour, and they returned to Las Vegas with one thought on their minds – sleep. If the casino had catered to these guests, they could have organized a more relaxing four-hour tour of Death Valley that included slot play beforehand and afterwards, a dinner show, linking gambling and tourism together.
Casino management must capitalize on the tourism value of Nevada by working closely with customers. Managers need to work a lot more on listening skills if they hope to avoid a Detroit-like fate in the future.
An easily replicated industry? The automobile industry symbolized America’s world economic dominance. Dominance continued as long as other nations lacked capital resources to duplicate factories. As soon as others found resources to invest in manufacturing, they replicated our auto industries. They realized that they could make cars as efficiently as we did and that they could meet the needs of American consumers as well. Although a car factory can be rather easily replicated, a gaming environment such as Nevada’s cannot. Its industry is built upon an infrastructure of variety, entertainment choice, inexpensive hotel accommodations, an ambience of good weather, and constant offerings of many special events. Multiplier factors. Automobile manufacturing is desirable because the factory jobs involved have a high multiplier effect. As many as six residents can be supported from the activity of one autoworker. As autoworkers are laid off, other jobs are also lost. The demise of the Detroit auto industry has been quickened by this negative multiplier. The multiplier effect in the casino industry is less pervasive. It is greatly influenced by the residence of its gamers. In Nevada, most are outsiders. In new gaming jurisdictions, most players are local residents. If these jurisdictions cannot offer gaming to patrons who come from outside the region, economic growth will be elusive. As future experiences are analyzed, there will be less pressure on other jurisdictions to seek to replicate the Nevada gaming scene. Expertise. Japanese car manufacturers demonstrated an ability to quickly learn the American market and to deliver products that met demands of Americans. They were good competitors. The same cannot be said for several non-Nevada gaming operators. Las Vegas has witnessed the experiences of four Japanese-owned casino operations. Only one was successful. Also, in foreign arenas, casino gaming is not conducted in a manner that will lure Nevada customers away. Nevada need not fear foreign operators, either within or outside the United States, The experts are in Nevada. Economic incentives. Labor costs and other provisions provided disincentives for automobile manufacturers to remain in Michigan. The Nevada casino scene is quite different. Gaming employees are not unionized, and wages are standardized at lower levels. Most other casino jurisdictions have higher wages, and dealers are organized. Taxation. Government taxation – both national and local – has driven the cost of automobile production to uncompetitive levels for Detroit automakers. The taxation situation has been a major incentive for auto plants to relocate. Gaming operations will not relocate outside Nevada for taxation reasons. Nevada casino taxation is the lowest of any jurisdiction – just over 6 percent. New Jersey has a gross tax approaching 12%, and most European casinos assess taxes of 50 percent or more on gambling wins. Conclusion
The factors that brought decay to the Detroit automobile industry appear not to be major concerns for the Nevada gambling industry.
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Any criminological theory that emphasizes the factor of “opportunity” would have to assess the casino industry – an industry where the essential product in money itself – as one which by its nature is a magnet for criminal activity.
Other studies establish that casinos in the United States have attracted criminal activity. There may be limits to the generalization offered, however. There may be casinos that do not manifest an aura of criminality. In my study tour of 140 European casinos, in 1986 and 1987, I gathered a distinct impression that these casinos were not magnets for crime.
The reaction of the casino industry and its regulators to crime is varied on the European side of the Atlantic. American regulators are defensive about crime. The American reactive posture can be contrasted with the massive roundup of public officials and casino operators following a simultaneous raid by the central Italian government on the country’s four casinos in 1983. The casinos were closed and only reopened with a supervisor from Rome placed in each. In 1958 Bavarian officials discovered skimming in the private casinos of the region; they were all closed. Subsequently, the state took over both ownership and control of the casinos. The Golden Horseshoe casino of London won a license over the objections of its neighbors on Queensway Road. The casino agreed, however, that its patrons would not drive on nearby streets. In the first year of operation, the casino permanently banned 167 players, many of them good customers, because they parked cars on adjacent streets. Such a ban can be contrasted with the difficulties the American casinos have in excluding the most notorious criminals from their premises, the legal challenges to the Nevada black book being a case in point. Why the difference? Let us look at a mix of factors distinguishing European casino environments from American environments.
In the United States, most casinos are concentrated in a few locations. There are megacasino groupings in Atlantic City, on the Las Vegas Strip, and in downtown Las Vegas and Reno. European casinos, on the other hand, can be found throughout the continent. In all, there are nearly 300 casinos in Europe.
The European casinos are not concentrated in any immediate location. This pattern of dispersal yields very much of a local clientele for each casino. Typically the player is a regular who goes to only one or two casinos and is personally known to casino managers. Managers are aware when new players come to gamble. With the presence of strangers, they are alerted to the need for greater surveillance.
The monopolistic position of each casino relieves competitive drives that cause American casinos to use psychological traps to entice the maximum play from each gamer.
American casinos traditionally have been red, loud, and action filled. European casinos come in every color, but a calming blue is typical. Art objects purposely draw players away from games in order to break action and emphasize an ambience of relaxation. Windows present vistas – forests, sunsets, seashores, valleys, mountains – and also inform the player that time is passing and that time must be enjoyed. Drinks are not allowed on the gaming floors. The free drink is reserved for the special player only, and it is given to the player when he or she desires to take a break.
The American casino seeks to attract the best players—the biggest losers. This leads to policies of granting credit. European casinos do not have credit gaming. The registration desk is a major attribute of the European casino that distinguishes it from the American counterpart. Every player must register before being allowed to enter. The player must identify himself or herself and show a passport if from another country. The player must show his or her age and often occupation as well. The players are required to pay an admission fee. Great Britain’s casinos require membership.
The registration desk weeds out nongamers and hangers-on. Such people who wander through Las Vegas houses pose a constant threat as purse snatchers, pickpockets, and petty thieves. Prostitutes, once identified, can be permanently banned from the European casinos.
The traditions of European gaming are very definitely rural, and most casinos are still in rural communities. Additionally, the casinos of Europe are small in comparison to American casinos. A typical European casino might have ten tables and a separate slot machine room with 50 low-denomination machines. The average casino would attract 300 gamers per night during the week and 500 on weekend evenings. By contrast, the open entrance, big crowds, and multiple game offerings in the United States make it difficult to spot much criminal activity – gaming cheats, machine manipulators, gamers trying to launder money at tables, and gamers perpetrating scams upon one another. It is also more difficult to spot dealers who cheat. Being outside of strong bottom-line competitive pressures, the European casinos do not really want compulsive gamblers. These gamers are especially persona non grata if there is reason to believe that they might be gambling with other’s money. The casinos honor requests by family members to exclude relatives who might have gambling problems. The casinos observe the occupational status of players, and they can inquire about the nature of the player’s job. Belgium excludes lawyers, bankers, and civil servant from casinos. It is felt that these professionals are trusted to handle other people’s moneys, and the trust could be broken if they gambled heavily or were observed gambling at all.
The governments of Europe do not have a high financial stake in the casino gaining, yet they make their presence felt at the casinos. Inspectors are always present in most European casinos. They open tables, close tables, and participate in counts. In many they collect taxes on the spot each evening. Gaming tax rates are extremely high, as high as 80% of gross win. Yet even with the very high rates, the governmental units do not receive a large share of their revenues from casinos. It is typical for casino taxes to be less than one-tenth of 1 percent of tax revenues. The government – except at the local town level – has almost no stake in casino operations. Therefore, the government exhibits little reluctance in closing casinos if they engage in improper practices.
Another factor that limits criminality in European casinos is the career nature of gaming employment. Dealers are not salaried. Rather they are paid from a collective tip pool. They can more easily accept the notion that they benefit by giving service rather than just working for a check. They know that their success is tied to the success of the casino. Hence they have a greater loyalty to the casino. The loyalty is enhanced by the knowledge that all position promotions are from within and that they have only rare opportunities to gain employment with other casinos. Dealers think in terms of having long-range careers. The bottom line is that it is a good job, it is a career, and it must be pursued in one casino only. Most European casino dealers have a lot to lose if they participate in scams. Skimming and cheating are not worth the risk.
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There are questions surrounding how the products of the gaming industry should be marketed. Which products should be legal? Where should gaming product distribution places be located?
The Nevada Gaming Commission is focusing upon locations of restricted license locations. These are places permitted to have fifteen or fewer gaming machines. The Commission should seek to analyze policy for restricted licenses guided by an overriding concern for the public interest of the citizens of Nevada.
Some gambling operations should be encouraged by state policy; others should be strongly discouraged; still others should be outright banned.
Both opponents and proponents should agree that some gaming can be in the interest of some communities and society – even if individuals find the activity to be offensive in all its forms. Both opponents and proponents should agree that some forms of gambling are offensive to the community and to society. The opponents should not waste energy condemning all gaming, but rather should seek out the most offensive forms and concentrate attacks on those forms. The proponents should not take the position that all gambling no matter the form is good for society. Instead, the proponents should seek out forms that offer benefits to society and make their defense around those forms.
I endorse the religious theology that accepts some gambling. If the game is honest, if the players are not habitual, if the players can meet their other social obligations, and if the bottom line helps the community in pursuit of good things, the activity may be permissible. An occasional game is played at low stakes, honestly, and the beneficiary is the local parish, school, hospital, etc. Permissible. The same can be said of other charity gambling, some Native American gaming, and maybe also of the Las Vegas Strip. Gamblers are recreational tourists, games are honest, and the end result is a growing economy that provides lots of entry-level jobs for persons who otherwise would not be employed.
There are better targets than the casinos of the Las Vegas Strip. My target – the slot machines of the grocery stores of the Las Vegas Valley. The machines of the grocery stores, while honest, attract habitual players whose activity reduces their ability to meet obligations to family and community, and in doing so the machines hurt the community. There is no redeeming value achieved to offset the harm.
The appropriate policy is obvious: take the machines out of the grocery stores. Consider these questions:
Who plays these machines? Is the money being played being brought into Las Vegas? Are the players tourists? How many are tourists? I think the percentage would be somewhere near zero. Are the players young or old, male or female? I think we would find most are upper-age females. What is their economic situation? Are they lower-income persons? How many purchase their food with food stamps, before (at least I hope) they play?
How many of the patrons of supermarket video slot machines are compulsive gamblers? How many of the players at 3 a.m. are compulsives? How many of the players who stay at the machines for ten hours in a row are compulsives? I think many.
Who is exposed to gambling in the supermarkets of Las Vegas? Everyone. Everyone is not exposed to the Strip gambling. We do not have to go to casinos. But we have to eat; we do not have a choice about going to the market. Children are exposed to this gambling. Teenagers, too, whereas Strip casinos throw out the teenagers. Recovering addicted gamblers have to have this gambling thrown into their faces when they shop for food. People who want absolutely nothing to do with gambling must be exposed. People are not forced to witness drinking and intoxicated people; they are forced to witness gambling and gambling-crazed people – in grocery stores.
Do I receive a better price for food, because of the gambling in grocery stores? When I go to a casino, I can enjoy a low-cost meal, because the casino forfeits profits on the meal in order to get me into the facility, because I might just drop a roll of quarters into a machine. Is my grocery bill less because of the slot machines in the grocery store? After all, my supermarket is sucking out anywhere from $300,000 to $900,000 a year from my neighbors with the machines. The reality is that our grocery store prices are not lower than those in surrounding states.
How much money do the machines make? Are the fifteen machines (the limit for grocery stores) making an average $30,000 a year (the average for the Strip), or maybe $40,000, or as is the case of one bar, $60,000 per machine? Are the machines taxed (they pay a flat fee) an amount more or less than paid by casinos for their slot machines? There is a $2,000 annual flat tax for grocery store machines, and a $1,000 annual flat tax plus 6.25% winnings tax for casino machines.
Where does the money go from the profits on the grocery store machines? To employees? Some. To local slot route companies? Some. Most goes to outside corporations that own the grocery stores. Each owner is an out-of-state company.
Would the Commission support putting slot machines in bank lobbies? That would be ridiculous. Guess what, each Las Vegas supermarket chain has an over-the-counter branch bank in its lobby along with the gambling machines. Not only do we have the issue about ATMs nearby (also in every lobby), but banks. My ATM will only give me $500 a day – the bank that owns the ATM wants to make sure I spend my money responsibly. But here I am with my bank account; the cash is only a few steps away – junior’s college fund.
Machine play in restricted locations is supposed to be “incidental” to other business. Can the markets say that from 12 midnight to 6 a.m. the machines are incidental? Would it be more accurate to say that the sole purpose of keeping the grocery stores open at those hours is to serve the cravings of habitual gamblers?
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The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 was passed to promote tribal “economic development, self-sufficiency, and strong tribal governments”. The Act was passed to enhance a renewal of sovereignty for Native American tribes. Has the Act been successful? The following sovereignty checklist serves as a guide to answer that question.
Consider the positive:
Gambling money means tribal survival. If the people of a nation cannot survive, they cannot be sovereign. Survival means food, housing, and medical care. Money from gambling activities has been placed into programs meeting basic needs. Survival is threatened by substance abuse – drugs, alcohol. Gambling revenues are used for treatment and prevention programs.
Gambling money means economic opportunity. Without jobs in their homelands, peoples gave up their nationalism by leaving. Gambling has brought jobs to Native lands. Jobs have given members of Nations an incentive to return home and renew native nationalism.
Gambling revenue is invested in other enterprises to gain a diversity of employment and secure a stable economic basis for the future.
Revenue allows tribes to choose the direction of economic development. Before gambling, many felt pressured to accept any economic opportunity. They allowed lands to be strip-mined, grazed, or timbered in nonecological ways, polluted with garbage and industrial wastes. One tribe explored the prospects of having a brothel.
Gambling money gives educational opportunities. Tribes use funds for books, computers, new desks, new roofs, remodeled halls, and plumbing for schools. Schools serve tribes with both cultural and vocational education.
Revenues allow tribes to make efforts to reestablish original land bases. They hire archaeologists to identify traditional lands. Lost lands must be the most vital symbol of lost sovereignty, and now through gambling, a measure of sovereignty is being returned.
Reservation gambling focuses upon cultural restoration activities. Money is spent on museum buildings that chronicle Native history. Tribes are turning funds to educational programs to reestablish their languages.
Sovereignty is political. The money of gambling allows tribes to assert all manner of legal issues in courts and in front of other policy makers. Gambling has also provided a catalyst for the creation of the National Indian Gaming Association in 1983. The Association has participated as a serious lobbying group within the American political system.
Economic power is directed at state and local government treasuries. Tribes bring several economic benefits to local and state governments. Gambling employment has resulted in reduced welfare rolls. Gambling tribes give state and local governments payments in lieu of taxes for services they would otherwise receive at no cost. This money is important, and the payments give the tribes a new measure of influence in relationships with these governments.
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act has lent itself to an expansion of Native American sovereignty by requiring American state governments to deal one-on-one with tribes on an equal footing basis.
In gambling, however, there is a danger to the renewal of Native sovereignty. Consider these items:
Native gambling presents opportunities for exploitation of tribes. Native Americans must also be critically aware that any gambling enterprise can be a magnet for scam artists and thieves of all sorts. Although the overall record of Native gambling is good, there is some evidence that thievery has occurred at gaming facilities.
Gambling operations can mean less sovereignty if tribes in quest of economic resources willingly yield authority to nonnative governments.
Gambling has torn some tribes apart. It can be a divisive issue, as many Native Americans oppose gambling for a variety of reasons – economic, social, cultural. One tribe found that members who lived in an area close to major highway access points tried to separate and form a new reservations because they could reap a greater share of the casino benefits. The collective good was being set aside, because gambling had placed a dollar sign in front of them.
Internal divisiveness regarding tribal gambling comes over the issue of how to distribute the gaming profits. Where tribes neglect collective concerns – education, health, housing, substance abuse – and instead direct the bulk of the revenues to per capita distribution programs, they may not be building sovereignty.
Gambling can tear apart Native cultures. Several tribes resisted having gaming operations because gambling itself violates religious beliefs, and operations would be seen as desecrations of lands. Others share those attitudes but allow the gambling because they desire economic rewards. Gambling opens up lands to outsiders. They come in buses and automobiles that cause congestion and pollution. They bring drinking and drug abuse behaviors. They engage in gambling. These behaviors serve as model behaviors for members of tribes, especially the young.
Gambling jobs may not be the best building blocks for sovereignty. Many of the jobs do not require intensive training – which may be good; however, the skills may not be transferable. Unless revenues are utilized to develop a diversified economic base, the concentration on gambling jobs may only create trained incapacities.
Sovereignty for tribes is diminished if the definition of what is a Native American can be so inclusive as to remove the unique qualities of the tribes’ political position. The quest for gambling opportunities has brought many strange folks out of the woodwork, claiming that they constitute a Native nation.
Native gambling can invite a backlash. Non-Natives have a five-century track record of taking any benefit they see in the hands of Native Americans away from them.
Sovereignty comes with international recognition and open diplomatic relationships. Gambling presents an ultimate danger to sovereignty if gambling Native nations see in their new economic power a weapon for dominating their neighbors rather than a new opportunity to build cooperative relations on an international basis.
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Almost all of Asia is closed to casino gambling, yet from my study of gambling, ironically enough I have found that Asians are the world’s “best” gamblers. They gamble more, they are high rollers, and they enjoy gambling more than others. Casinos around the world rely upon the patronage they receive from Asian players. Over half of the money gambled in Britain’s 120 casinos comes from Chinese players. Las Vegas markets its high-stakes products to Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. The card rooms in California are filled with Asian Americans.
Asians gamble the most, but why? In my travels to gaming establishments in Asia, Europe, North America, Central America, and South America, I have found some explanations that seem plausible.
I have not seen many Asians among the “homeless” or “street people” of the large cities. Poor Asians do not have to live on the streets. Asians have strong families, they have family businesses, and they work very hard. Asian people are active, their heads are raised upward, and they exude self-confidence. I even saw these qualities when I visited mainland China. Fifty years of Communist efforts to change human nature did not stymie energy inside the people. This may have relevance for gambling behavior.
You cannot be a “good gambler” unless you have a bankroll. You cannot afford to win unless you can afford to lose. A player needs staying power. When a player knows he or she can lose, he or she can play, and play to the limit. Many an Asian knows that if he or she loses enough to no longer own a house, there will still be a roof over his or her head. The extended family will take the gambler in and provide food and a job in a family business – perhaps a laboring job, but one he or she will be willing to do. The gambler knows that by working hard he or she can get ahead. Quite likely, the wealthy gambler was once a poor person, and through personal effort worked to the top. That can be done again, and the gambler’s confidence is not broken by gambling losses.
The manager of a London casino told me the story of a Chinese player who saw his fortune disappear with heavy gambling. Being totally broke, he was soon working in the kitchen of a cousin’s restaurant. A year later, he was managing the restaurant, and the next year he owned two restaurants. And he was back in the casino gambling high stakes. The downside of the equation is that the safety-net formula of family and self-confidence provides no inhibitions to stop forces that lead players into compulsive gambling.
Asians often gamble in groups, and they exude excitement in play. They believe the best thing is to win. The second best thing is to lose. The worst thing is not playing. Often at a roulette table they will shout loudly when one of the group wins. They will also shout loudly when the ball falls on a number that is next to the one played. Coming close is cause for cheering.
The players will come and leave in groups, and casino managers must be aware of this. The lesson was learned by one British casino manager confronted with a loud Asian player one night. After seeing that the player was annoying more staid “European” players, the manager tried to gently tell the player to be a little less excited during play. He noticed that the player was young and had had too much to drink. He told the bartender to serve him no more. After several increasingly less subtle warnings, the manager gave up and asked the bouncer to escort the player out of the premises. No sooner had this happened than a crowd of twenty players at six tables gathered their chips and went to the cage, cashed in, and left. Many were regulars, who were not seen for over a month. When the manager threw one of their group out, he threw the entire group out. The next time an incident occurred, the manager found an older gentleman among the group and told him that the casino would like the “loud” player to come back another evening to play, but in the meantime would like to buy the young man and his immediate party (of four) dinner in the adjacent restaurant. The older gentleman made all the arrangements and laughingly accompanied the young man to a very private corner booth in the restaurant. All were happy, and the Asian entourage continued their gambling merriment for several more hours – that night and the next.
Casino managers have offered additional explanations. The players may work in family businesses that operate until late hours. Because these businesses operate on a cash basis, the owner has cash receipts that can easily be brought to the casinos. Also, the owners and the employees have no other place to go (if they do not want to go straight home) at the hour they close their shops. They are like the dealers of Las Vegas with tip money in their pockets when the shift changes at 2 a.m. These people can meet their friends and enjoy camaraderie in the late hour (or 24-hour) gambling establishments.
Asian players are drawn to luck games. Eastern cultures emphasize the luck of certain numbers; persons born in certain years have lifetime luck. One who has luck is urged to act upon the luck. Numerology and horoscopes are well respected. The players gravitate to games that depend on luck. Most Asians are not found at poker tables; they are not blackjack card counters, nor do they frequent craps tables that demand detailed concentration on various combinations of odds. Their calculation is a calculation to find one’s lucky number, not a calculation to minimize the house odds. Asians dominate the baccarat tables of Las Vegas. They favor pai gow and pai gow poker games and simple dice games such as sic bo.
I was astounded to find no fortune cookies during travels to central China. Most of the Chinese people with me had never heard of fortune cookies. But an older gentleman had. He told me that Chairman Mao had banned them. The people were supposed to get ahead by hard work, not by luck. The cookies were a bad influence. Mao did not want people to gamble. Everywhere I went, however, I saw people playing games. I never saw money being wagered, but I sensed the spirit was still there. Certainly their relatives around the world have the spirit.
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The first Canadian casino was not in a province, but in the Yukon Territory. Its operation received little notice. The casino is a special exception for this remote northern location and has not spawned attempts to duplicate it elsewhere. Still, the casino operates under the guidelines of the 1969 Criminal Code amendments.
The Yukon Territory had considerable gambling activity during the Klondike gold rush days of the Gay Nineties. Gaming halls offered a wide range of gambling opportunities along Dawson City streets. After the gold fever subsided, Canada annexed the territory in 1898 and began enforcing the Criminal Code. Gaming activity declined.
Under the 1969 amendments, the territory granted a special gaming license to the Klondike Visitor’s Association, a division of the Yukon territorial government. The license permits casino gaming from mid-spring through the summer months at a location known as Diamond Tooth Gerties (Diamond Tooth was the name of a renowned Klondike personality). The 9,000-square-foot gaming facility offers twenty-six games of blackjack, roulette, wheels of fortune, and poker as well as fifty-two machines. Maximum bets are as high as $100 per hand. The casino has a professional manager and gaming staff. The casino is open from 7:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. during the spring and summer seasons. Patrons pay an entrance fee of three dollars. Annual passes are available for ten dollars. Alcoholic beverages and snacks are available, but there is no restaurant. Live productions in the style of the gold rush days entertain the patrons. A regular feature is the Ballad of Sam Magee Show. Although designed to attract tourist play, the casino draws the most play from Dawson City residents. The casino attracts annual play of about $1 million. Gross wins approach $400,000. The Canadian government under the 1994 Lottery Licensing Act and Regulations receives 25% of the gross win. Remaining profits minus payroll expenses go to promote tourism and preserve historical buildings. A deputy minister within the territorial Ministry of Justice regulates the casino.
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Wyoming has a quarter horse racing circuit that draws betting action to tracks at Evanston, Gillette, and Rock Springs. There are also charity bingo games and bingo games operated by the Wind River Reservation. Wyoming residents are within the marketing areas for the low-stakes casinos of both Colorado and Deadwood, South Dakota. The state also borders Montana, with its policies for machine gambling. For this reason, there have been several attempts by Wyoming business groups and by some political leaders to authorize machine gambling in taverns as well as low-stakes card games. These efforts have never received serious consideration.
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