Gambling, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans

Life in the USA is a complete guide to American life for immigrants and Americans. All materials on this site Copyright © Elliot Essman 2014. All rights reserved.    Home    Back    Next

Life in the USA
Everyday Life

Gambling exists in both legal and illegal forms in America. Many states have lotteries with “jackpots” running into millions of dollars. Some lotteries ask you to choose a series of numbers, with winning numbers advertised on television or posted in the “Lotto” stores. Other lotteries have “instant winners” where you rub off a metallic film from the ticket to see if you have won something. These lotteries don't give particularly good returns on your money when compared with casinos and horse racing, but the profit from them supposedly goes to a worthwhile cause, such as education.

Casino gambling used to be available only in the state of Nevada and the city of Atlantic City, New Jersey, which combined the gambling with elaborate hotels and top-name entertainment. In recent years laws have changed to allow casinos on cruise-boats, Indian reservations, and elsewhere. Games, odds and procedures will differ according to the location.

Race Tracks. Horse and dog (greyhound) race tracks are common in many states. This is known as “pari-mutuel” betting, where the total amount bet for each particular race is split among the winners, with the track and the government taking their share of course. The Spanish/Basque sport of J'ai alai is also offered on this basis in some states, particularly Florida and Connecticut. In some states also, off-track betting is a legal, state-run enterprise.

Illegal gambling takes all forms. Illegal off-track betting or “bookmaking” is common. So are illegal lotteries, the “numbers” game. Illegal casinos, cock fights, dog fights, and an elaborate system of illegal sports betting can be found everywhere. Illegal gambling is usually connected to “organized crime.” While some highly religious Americans and social reformers still campaign against gambling, it is not a major social issue.

Gambling can be pathological for some people. An organization called Gambler's Anonymous helps people with gambling problems.

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