Gambling​—A Global Fascination

JOHN, who grew up in Scotland, dreamed of winning the lottery. “I bought a lottery ticket every week,” he says. “It cost me just a small amount of money, but that ticket gave me hope of gaining everything I ever wanted.”

Kazushige, who lives in Japan, loved horse racing. “Gambling at the racetrack with my friends was a great deal of fun, and I sometimes won large sums of money,” he recalls.

“Bingo was my favorite game,” says Linda, who lives in Australia. “This habit cost me about $30 a week, but I loved the thrill of winning.”

John, Kazushige, and Linda viewed gambling as a relatively harmless form of entertainment. Hundreds of millions of people around the globe share that viewpoint. A 1999 Gallup poll showed that two thirds of Americans approved of gambling. In 1998, American gamblers spent about $50 billion on legalized gambling​—more than they spent on movie tickets, recorded music, spectator sports, theme parks, and video games combined.

According to a recent study, during a one-year period, more than 80 percent of Australia’s population gambled at least once, and 40 percent gambled each week. Adults in that country, on average, spend more than $400 (U.S.) annually on gambling, about twice the amount spent by Europeans or Americans, making Australians among the most avid gamblers in the world.

Many Japanese are addicted to pachinko, a pinball-like game, and spend billions a year betting on  the game. In Brazil, at least $4 billion is spent each year on gambling, much of it on lottery tickets. But Brazilians are not the only ones who love lotteries. The magazine Public Gaming International recently estimated that there are “306 lotteries in 102 countries.” Gambling is truly a global fascination​—a fascination, some say, that brings great benefits.

Sharon Sharp, a representative of the Public Gaming Research Institute, says that in the United States from 1964 to 1999, lottery proceeds “account[ed] for about $125 billion of state budget dollars, with the greatest part of this revenue coming in since 1993.” Much of this money was earmarked for public education programs, state parks, and the development of public sports facilities. The gambling industry is also a major employer, and in Australia alone, it employs about 100,000 people in over 7,000 businesses.

Thus, advocates of gambling argue that in addition to providing entertainment, legalized gambling creates jobs, provides tax revenue, and improves depressed local economies.

Many people would therefore ask, ‘What is wrong with gambling?’ The answer to this question, which is discussed in the following articles, may well change your view of gambling.

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