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ECONOMICS REPORT - U.S. States and Gambling - 2004-07-15

Broadcast: July 16, 2004

This is Bob Doughty with the VOA Special English Economics Report.

Some form of gambling is legal in all fifty American states except two, Hawaii and Utah. Some states increasingly see games of chance as a good chance to help pay for services.

A new law in Pennsylvania will permit as many as sixty-one thousand slot machines in that state. Players put in money and hope to win more money.

Pennsylvania expects to earn as much as one thousand million dollars a year. Governor Ed Rendell says some money will go to reduce property taxes.

In Maryland, some lawmakers and Governor Robert Ehrlich want to make slot machines legal in their state as well. Maryland is next to Pennsylvania. Gambling on horse races is already legal in Maryland. Now, officials worry that Maryland will lose gambling money to Pennsylvania.

Some people in Washington, D.C., want slot machines in the nation's capital.

States with big budget deficits, like New York and California, also want to increase their gambling money. New York Governor George Pataki wants to put machines called "video lottery terminals" at horse races throughout the state. He says his plan would raise lots of money for education.

In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently signed deals with five Native American tribes. The tribes can now operate as many slot machines as they want. Gambling has become a major industry on tribal lands in the United States. Tribal governments do not pay taxes. But many states have agreements with tribes over gambling rights.

Governor Schwarzenegger hopes California will receive one thousand million dollars for its current budget.

But some people say public officials are taking too much of a chance on gambling. Religious leaders call it a social evil that ruins lives. Opponents say it brings crime and other problems. They argue that it does not create new wealth, but serves as a tax on the poor, who are more likely to gamble.

In two-thousand, the General Accounting Office of Congress released a report on the economic and social effects of gambling. The writers noted a finding that eighty-six percent of Americans reported having gambled at least once in their lives.

But the report said that while it is easy to know how much money gambling raises, it is difficult to know how gambling affects society.

This VOA Special English Economics Report was written by Mario Ritter. This is Bob Doughty.