Big-time gambling and big-time troubles | Wally's World

When most Americans think of gambling in Nevada, they think of the tourist-oriented Strip in Las Vegas. With more than a dozen huge casino-resorts – some of the largest in the world – and their gaudy, colorful walls of neon, water ballets and spectacular streetside theater, there’s good reason for the Strip’s fame and popularity. It’s one of the most awesome and unique urban centers on the planet and, make no mistake about it, visitors come from all over the world. Everyone from British royalty to the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.

But the gambling mecca that Nevada celebrates goes beyond the Strip. Excluding that sensational stretch within the city limits of Law Vegas there are more than 25 additional full-service casinos that are specifically designed to attract local people, not tourists. Indeed, the typical Las Vegas resident very rarely goes to the Strip, preferring the neighborhood casino just a block down the street. The only reason many locals go to the Strip is to show it to friends and relatives who are visiting. Las Vegas has more than 1,400 restaurants and/or bars and each and every one has several poker videos or some other gambling machines that are digesting money 24 hours a day. There are “games” in every grocery, drugstore, garage, Home Depot, pizza parlor, clothing store and even college student unions. There’s simply no escaping them. It’s literally difficult to enjoy a quiet conversation over a martini without the insistent, melodious rattle of slot machines in the background.

Of course, during the last 30 years, legalized gambling has spread far beyond the confines of Vegas, as cash-strapped states have seized upon gambling as the solution to their financial woes without raising taxes. All but seven states now have lotteries. Pull-tabs have sprung up in cities, towns, truck-stops and roadside diners all over the country. State-run, casino-type gambling has popped up in several cities and many more have limited “gaming” in the form of card rooms. Of course, you can find casinos run by Indian tribes on nearly every reservation in America.

Just a few months ago, our state legislature was toying with the idea of making casino-type gambling legal all over the state, on and off reservations. Most bars in this state already have pull-tabs and nearly every convenient store and grocery store sells lottery tickets. It’s not that farfetched to predict that, in the relatively near future, we’ll have slot machines in the 7-11 and video poker in Safeway.

But before we jump into this first-class, irreversible financial circus, a note of caution is justified. Nevada is one of our least populated states. With the exception of the Vegas and the Reno/Carson City complex, most of the state is merely uninhabited, arid desert. Nevertheless, it leads the nation, year after year, in such felonious crimes as murder, rape, aggravated assault, robbery and burglary. Furthermore, Nevada’s suicide rate is double that of other states, year after year.   And it currently has the highest rate of personal bankruptcies and home foreclosures. Can all this be simply a matter of sheer chance, year after year?

Despite these negative consequences, I predict full-scale, Washington statewide gambling is on the way, sooner or later.   And while we’re at it, let’s legalize pot and prostitution as well. If we’re gonna open one financial floodgate, we may as well open them all.

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