Archive for January, 2011

Casinos without Crime: Is It Possible? Gambling in AmericaAny 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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