San Diego Journalist Tackles America's Obsession With Gambling
This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Used to be run by the mob. Now government is the Godfather when it comes to gambling in America. That is the premise behind a new book written by Saturday and union Tribune editor David clear. He examines every form of gambling, enterprise in America. And describes how making bets was transformed from a vice into a public good. David Clary is my guest, author of Zukas for. Thank you for coming in.Thank you for having me.A few decades ago, Atlantic City and Nevada were the only places with officially sanctioned casinos. Now gambling is legal in 48 states. What happened to make the switch from the more puritanical laws to governors you know almost reading Kacinas the public good.Government was instrumental making gambling an acceptable tool for public policy. It started back in the 30s with legalizing Reading horse racetracks including here Delmar. From there, once we got a taste of the revenue, it's hard to say other forms of gambling on acceptable. After that, they started sing lotteries come into play. Lotteries were something controlled by the underground. You hear about the numbers rockets. That's what the lotteries are. Once states got a taste of lottery revenue, they started getting active in casino gambling and one thing led to another. Also when you have states competing against each other, it's almost a casino arms race.To the expectations of being -- big public when falls come true frustrates?The record is mixed on that. Governors tend to overestimate what gambling can deliver and turns -- in terms of revenue. When you hear state say they want to expand Kacinas, they promise this will revive the depressed downtown or this will revive a depressed mining town.Our schools win too.The returns were not with expect. I think when citizens hear promises from governors, they should be skeptical of these kinds of claims and foot it can do.You never bought a lottery ticket. You don't play fantasy sports and you don't gamble at all. What made you want to write the book about gambling?I'm a very light gambler and I have stayed that way throughout the writing of the book. I was just in Las Vegas this past weekend and I only gambled $40 and lost it all. That's one reason why don't gamble because I tend to lose. I'm not someone you should come to for gambling tips for sure. I've always been interested in the drama of gambling. I grew up in upstate New York. My folks would take me to Saratoga and horse racetracks. I took my first trip to Las Vegas when I was 14 and it was real striking place seeing the city in the middle of nowhere bathe in the on. It was striking. It was the first time I went into a casino and sing the drama and the people who are bored and excited and it really grabbed me right away. When I moved to San Diego 15 years ago, one thing that surprised me about San Diego County, how many Indian casinos were here. I had no idea there were so many large casinos here in San Diego County. I was curious about that and how that came to be. That led me into other forms of gambling and how they became legalized. That lead you to some fascinating characters like Bugsy Siegel and other folks like that. To me it's a fascinating topic.You talk about Bugsy Siegel. The myth is, gangsters have been heavily involved in the creation of Las Vegas. That is one of the myths you kind of look through during the book.That's true. There is a lot of mob mythology that overlays gambling history. It takes some research to get through that. In the case of Bugsy Siegel, a lot of people credit him with he invented Las Vegas. That's not really true. There were two other casinos on the Las Vegas strip as we know it now before the Flamingo Hotel. The flamingo was not his original idea. When he opened it, it was a failure and then he was killed and after it was killed that he was killed, it became a success. There certainly is a lot of mob mythology you see through the movies and TV shows that isn't quite true.You write about the health costs of gambling addiction that some states may not take into account as they back more casinos. Former San Diego Mayor Maureen O'Connor has been public about the fact that she suffered from a gambling addiction. She placed more than $1 billion worth of bets over the coast -- course of the decade. Our California -- are states getting better about addressing gambling addictions?Some states provide zero funds for treating gambling addiction. Which I think is wrong. Other states provide may be a gambling hotline or some money for treatment programs. But it's a pittance compared to the revenue they receive from gambling. Is part of the research I spent at a gamblers anonymous meeting. These are people mostly in their 40s, 50s and 60s and they describe these terrible things that happen to them with gambling. They lost all of their money. Their marriages suffered. The relationships with children suffered. Their jobs suffered. I think states need to do more because state and local governments receive $38 billion per year in revenue from gambling. Where you have an increase in gambling, you will have an increase in problem family. States need to do know that's more to treat that.The book is called, "Gangsters to Governors: The New Bosses of Gambling in America". I have been speaking with the author David Clary and he will be speaking about his book the Sunday afternoon at Laguna Beach books. Thank you so much. Cement thank you so much for having me.Be sure to watch I'm Maureen Cavanaugh -- join us tomorrow for KPBS "Midday Edition" at noon followed by the KPBS roundtable at 1230. If you ever missions show, check out the "Midday Edition" podcast at kpbs.org /podcast. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Thank you for listening.
The San Diego Union-Tribune editor David Clary isn't much of a gambler. He rarely goes to casinos. He has never bought a lottery ticket and doesn't even play fantasy football. But he has spent the past six years researching America's gambling industry.
In the new book "Gangsters to Governors: The New Bosses of Gambling in America" Clary wrote about local government's relatively recent embrace of gambling revenue. Just a few decades ago, the only legally sanctioned U.S. casinos were in New Jersey and Nevada. Now there are legal casinos in every state except Hawaii and Utah. The gambling industry could swell again if the Supreme Court decides to allow sports betting nationwide this year.
"Governors are now the unquestioned masters of gambling, but their enthusiastic embrace of more casinos and richer lotteries is tipping the business out of balance," Clary wrote. "The question of how government should handle sports wagering and online gambling sets up a fascinating Catch-22: Keep the barriers and risk losing ground to organized crime and missing out on revenue, or remove them and put governors in command of yet more forms of bettering and accept the likelihood that they will overreach."
Clary joins KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday to discuss his reporting into the country's centuries-long fascination with gambling.