Sunday March 3,2013 : BIG CHANGES WILL CONTINUE IN U.S. GAMBLING
 
40 years ago, you had to travel to Las Vegas to gamble
 
40 years ago, the only legal way Americans could gamble was to travel to Nevada, the only US state that permitted a leisure pastime that was regarded in that era as disreputable; since then the United States has seen remarkable changes and more freedom of choice, with land gambling available in 38 states, lotteries in 43 and one in four Americans enjoying responsible and controlled gambling.
 
This reminder of the fairly recent past was published at the weekend in an interesting Chicago Tribune article on the growing trend to online gambling legalization in America, illustrating how relatively little time is required for really big changes to occur in the way gambling is perceived and implemented.
 
Written by CT blogger Steve Chapman, the piece recalls that the reason for the restricted availability of gambling was that the public perception regarded it as a socially unacceptable and disreputable pastime populated by villains and hustlers and the "first step on the road to self-destruction" for law-abiding citizens. Politicians generally made the practice illegal as a consequence.
 
How those perceptions are changing is illustrated by the fact that today – according to official American Gaming Association statistics – over 60 million Americans visit gambling establishments, and the [land] gambling industry contributes around 1 percent of the national US economy.
 
Chapman observes that there has been a "…steady, gradual process of opening up freedom in this particular realm – a process that is not about to end.
 
"That's because as more and more Americans have encountered legal gambling, they have discarded the exaggerated fears that once blocked it. The vast majority of patrons, it turns out, don't become compulsive gamblers, don't blow the rent on blackjack and don't desert their families.
 
"Bringing a casino into a community is not likely to set off a wave of crime or social decay. Neither is allowing it in the home."
 
Online technology is set to make legal gambling more widely available, with New Jersey recently joining Delaware and Nevada in passing legalization laws, Chapman notes, commenting that other states are sure to follow.
 
Meanwhile, an estimated 4 percent of Americans (another AGA stat) continue to risk having their financial transactions disrupted by UIGEA as they gamble on offshore internet sites that have been unable to licence in America due to the confusing and in parts discriminatory political and legal environment.
 
Chapman opines that the black market competitive presence is one reason why major US land gambling companies are now getting behind legalization initiatives, ensuring that they acquire the advantage by doing so.
 
"What lies ahead is not quite a wide-open, consumer-driven business," Chapman writes. "Still, it's a far better deal for customers than being denied a legal avenue to Internet betting."