Pennsylvania gambling expands and other states will follow

My latest for Vegas Seven–some thoughts on the meaning of Pennsylvania’s expansion of gambling:

There are two areas of interest for Las Vegans. The first is the expansion itself. In a sense, Pennsylvania’s push may be the final phase of the expansion of American gambling, which started with Nevada’s re-legalization of wide-open commercial gaming in 1931, intensified with New Hampshire’s revival of the lottery in 1964, opened again with the 1976 legalization of casino gaming in Atlantic City and accelerated following Congress’ 1988 passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The result of this growth is that legal gambling, which in 1910 was limited to horse race betting in Kentucky and Maryland, is now the norm in the United States.

Read more: Pennsylvania gambling expands and other states will follow

IMHO, more gambling expansion is probably on the way. No big surprise, but I give a few of my reasons in the article.

The NHL is coming to Las Vegas because America is now a casino nation – The Washington Post

I got the opportunity to write a piece about how the NHL’s announcement it is coming to Las Vegas fits in with the history of gambling for the Washington Post. Here is a small sample:

In that atmosphere, professional sports — whose legitimacy has at times been tainted by gambling-related scandals from the infamous 1919 Black Sox to college-basketball point shaving — were right to distance themselves from gambling. It was mostly illegal and, even where it was allowed, was not well-regarded by the rest of the country. With the United States nearly unanimous against gambling, legal or otherwise, this was a no-brainer.

Source: The NHL is coming to Las Vegas because America is now a casino nation – The Washington Post

Obviously this is a little different from my usual writing for Vegas Seven–it gave me the chance to address a different audience. My gratitude goes to the editors at the Post, and of course, my editors at Seven who give me the chance to write about such a range of topics.

Is Nevada Moving Away From Gambling? | Vegas Seven

In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I consider the 150-year history of Nevada and gambling, and wonder what the future will hold:

The original match wasn’t exactly a marriage of convenience, but it wasn’t a forbidden romance, either. When Nevada joined the Union in 1864, it soberly criminalized the gambling that had been rampant—as it was virtually everywhere in the West—during its territorial days.

via Is Nevada Moving Away From Gambling? | Vegas Seven.

I wanted to make the point that Nevada’s relationship with gambling has never been about gambling–it’s usually been about something else, whether it’s Western-style personal liberty or economic development.

A new chapter in a new book

I just want to give everyone a heads-up: though I still don’t have an ETA for the Sarno book, I have something new that was just published: I’ve written the chapter on gambling in the first volume of SAGE Publication’s Key Issues in Crime and Punishment series, Crime and Criminal Behavior. Here’s the cite:

William Chambliss, general editor. Crime and Criminal Behavior. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications, 2011. 344 pages.

It’s not a particularly long chapter, but it’s a pretty good distillation of history of legal and illegal gambling in the United States and arguments for and against the legalization of gambling. I’m as happy about this as anything else I’ve published lately. It’s a different genre from my writing for popular media, but one that I still enjoy working in.

If you’ve got $80 burning a hole in your pocket and want to know more about a whole gamut of criminological behaviors, I suggest you get yourself a copy.

Seeing as that’s not incredibly likely, I’d make the more realistic request that, if you are affiliated with a college or university, you suggest that your library acquire the series.

Here’s a brief description of the book:

Crime and Criminal Behavior
delves into such hotly debated topics as age of consent, euthanasia and assisted suicide, gambling, guns, internet pornography, marijuana and other drug laws, religious convictions, and terrorism and extremism. From using a faking I.D. to assaulting one’s domestic partner to driving drunk, a vast array of behaviors fit into the definition of criminal. The authors of these 20 chapters examine the historical contexts of each topic and offer arguments both for and against the ways in which legislators and courts have defined and responded to criminal behaviors, addressing the sometimes complex policy considerations involved. Sensitive subjects such as hate crimes are addressed, as are crimes carried out by large groups or states, including war crime and corporate crime. This volume also considers crimes that are difficult to prosecute, such as Internet crime and intellectual property crime, and crimes about which there is disagreement as to whether the behavior harms society or the individual involved (gun control and euthanasia, for example).

Crime and Criminal Behavior

Like I said, this probably won’t be flying off the shelves for home reading, but I think it would make an ideal addition to any college/university library.

2/24 UNLV Gaming Research Colloquium: Professor Darryl A. Smith

I’m pretty excited about the upcoming Gaming Research Colloquium talk that we’re hosting at UNLV:

Please join us at 12:15 PM, Thursday, Feb. 24, as February Gaming Research Fellow Darryl A. Smith delivers a Gaming Research Colloquium talk titled “’Dark with Excessive Bright:’ Gambling Tells and the Gaming Taboo.”

Smith, an assistant professor of religious studies at the Pomona College, will discuss the philosophical commonalities between poker tells and themes in religious and secular writing. Within sacred language the belief has existed that the personal name is an intrinsic part of oneself. As such, its revelation threatens exposure to powers that might undo its bearer. Smith considers the relation between the detection of tells in gambling and that of so-called true names. Strategies of concealment and detection that are basic to both tell-reading and true-naming are explored in relation to post-colonial theory’s insights into using light in order to hide things.

Those interested in poker, philosophy, religious studies, and the literature of gambling are encouraged to attend.

Admission is free and open to the public.

Gaming Research Colloquium: Professor Darryl A. Smith

Gaming Research Colloquium: Professor Darryl A. Smith | University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Here’s why it’s going to be so good: Professor Smith’s background is in religious studies, so we’re getting more of a perspective on poker from the humanities than we usually do. The title, if you don’t recognize it off the bat (I didn’t), is a quote from Milton. Talking with Darryl about his research, the conversation went from John Milton to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man to Mike Caro and David Sklansky, and it made perfect sense. So he’s not going to tell you how to win more pots, but he will give you a better idea of where poker draws from bigger philosophical concepts. I find that interesting.

Ho’s wife’s maid wins the lottery

This story’s only tangentially about gambling, but it’s interesting in a quirky sort of way. From the Malaysian Star:

A Malaysian maid working in Hong Kong has reportedly won over HK$30mil RM12mil in a local lottery, China Press reported.The middle-aged woman is a helper at the mansion of Angela Leong, the fourth wife of casino tycoon Stanley Ho, known as the “King of Gambling”.

The woman bought a Mark Six ticket lottery organised by the Hong Kong Jockey Club on her birthday, as suggested by her employer’s family, said the paper.

A member of the Ho family confirmed the news to Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily.

via Malaysian maid wins RM12mil in HK lottery.

I think that’s somewhere in the range of $4 million US, which isn’t bad. According to the rest of the article, she’s going to keep her job since she’s very attached to Mrs. Leong’s daughter.

Is it ironic that a woman who indirectly works for one of the world’s wealthiest casino owners takes their advice to buy a lottery ticket, then wins? Maybe.

A few casino haiku

I have just been sent a series of haiku that summarize articles about various aspects of casino gambling. I thought I would share a few with you.

When the Chips are Down

Gambling took a hit;

Gambling’s more than Nevada

And vice versa.

Source: A special report on gambling
“When the chips are down”
July 8th 2010

Harrah’s Loyalty Program (Gold Standard)

He can see your soul

Your passions He can peruse

With one plastic swipe

Source: “Why Harrah’s Loyalty Effort Is Industry’s Gold Standard”
October 05, 2009

Loveman Empiricism

Led by the numbers

To mooshy warm sacks of cash

Except in Asia.

Source: “Loveman Plays `Purely Empirical’ Game as Harrah’s CEO”
August 05, 2010

Cosmo and Eichner and Deutsche Bank

The briefest victim:

Leopard-print adultery:

Subjective values.

Source: “Property Mogul Poised to Take a Second Fall”
May 09, 2008

All haiku are by Meighan Schopenhauer.

New Occasional Paper at UNLV

Hey everyone, I’ve just posted a new occasional paper over at It’s part of a bigger study of locals sports books by recent UNLV sociology Ph.D. Fred Krauss:

Fred Krauss. “Taking the Points: The Socialization Process of a Sports Book Regular.”

Patrons of a casino sports book use the environment for much more than the instrumental task of sports betting. It is also a place to congregate with other like-minded patrons and through this process complex interactional dynamics develop over time. The social world of the sports book emerges in a designated space for the betting act where patrons meet, interact, and establish a culture to which they adhere.

Read paper (pdf)

This was an interesting one–I see Krauss’s work as an extension of John D. Rosecrance’s seminal Degenerates of Lake Tahoe, a ground-breaking study of horse players in, wild guess, Lake Tahoe. I look forward to seeing more from Dr. Krauss.

I’ve also been editing the CGR header a bit–I’m still not totally happy with it, but if I was, my job would be pretty boring.

Vegas carpet in Wired

There’s another article about casino carpet available today–this is a little piece in Wired magazine:

“The carpets definitely play a big part in keeping the town as surreal as it is,” said Maluszynski by e-mail. “Thought has been given to the carpeting by people who want to create this special atmosphere, [one] that defines Vegas as a gambling city.”

via Ugly Vegas Carpets Want You to Keep Playing | Raw File.

I’m really going to update the essay that they reference to make it a little less tongue in cheek. On the Internet, no one can hear you being sardonic. I think I’ll add some more serious reasons why carpet looks like it does: mostly to hide stains and to jazz up a pretty big space. Thanks to Luxor and Aria, we’ve seen what less gaudy carpet looks like in a casino: funereal.

The urban legend that it makes you look at the machines is patently ridiculous. As bipeds with their heads 5-6 feet off the ground, humans generally look at about eye level while they’re walking. unless they’re hiking over treacherous ground. It’s not like our default mode to to stare at our shoes while we walk. The other legend, that it’s to hide chips, is flat-out stupid. Casinos want players to gamble their chips, not lose them. If a player loses money, or a chip, whoever finds it is supposed to report it to lost and found. If no one claims it after 30 days, they keep it. (At least that’s how it is in most places I’m familiar with.) If that happens, it’s a stone cold lock that the money’s not getting gambled at the casino. What kind of manager would want to encourage that?

It would be nice if casino carpet was really that mystical, but it’s really pretty common sense stuff if you think about it for a while.

Vegas Seven double shot

It’s Thursday, and if you like my writing for Vegas Seven, it’s a lucky Thursday, since I’ve got my usual Green Felt Journal column and a more in-depth Latest Word.

The Latest Word piece takes a philosophical and even theological look at poker, winning, and losing:

In other words, poker isn’t always fair. Of course, it’s all about perspective. The best hand at the showdown wins the pot. It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t the best hand pre-flop, or that someone with a better hand folded on the turn, or that your opponent made a miracle draw to fill his inside straight and won a pot he had no business playing for. That, as they say, is the luck of the draw. And it has absolutely nothing to do with whether you’re a better friend, lover or parent than your opponent, or whether you need the money to save a life and he’s just going to blow it at the craps table. The cards have no conscience.

The Winning Hand is Not to the Swift …

For the Green Felt Journal, I took a look at the business and organization behind the World Series of Poker. It’s considerable.

If you’ve watched the World Series of Poker on ESPN, you might think that it’s a pretty laid-back event. Sure, there’s plenty of tension at the final table, but it’s basically just a bunch of guys and gals getting together to play cards, right?

Actually, the two-month tournament at the Rio is all about the cards, but it is orders of magnitude more complicated than your Tuesday night home game. With 57 bracelet events, daily satellites and nearly 80 cash games going on over the course of the tournament, the World Series of Poker is more than an event.

“It’s an organization, not an event,’ says Jack Effel, vice president of international poker operations and director of the World Series of Poker for Harrah’s Entertainment. “It’s got to be that way to be successful.”

Inside the WSOP

Two very interesting columns to write. Enjoy.