It's a long way from the staid US Senate chambers of Harrison A. Williams (D) of New Jersey and Jacob K. Javits (R) of New York to the casino parlors in Atlantic City, N.J., the packed jai alai games in Miami, or the newsstands selling lottery tickets in Ohio.
But this week, when the National Council on Compulsive Gambling (NCCG) goes to Washington to meet with Senators Williams and Javits, gambling and its unfortunate side effects will be the chief topic of conversation, as it will likely be for many years to come.
One year ago Senator Williams introduced landmark legislation that would have launched a $1 million study of compulsive gambling in the United States. Since then, it hasn't gotten out of committee, and the meeting this week is aimed at rekindling interest in the legislation.
And this time, with legalized gaming making inroads all across the US, the chances are much better for action, NCCG spokesmen say. Forty-four states now have some form of legalized gambling. In Atlantic City, three gambling casinos are open; 12 more are currently under construction; at least 25 more are planned. New Jersey state officials forecast that by 1985 casinos will produce
In Florida, proponents of casino gambling for Miami Beach recently launched a campaign. A similar bid last year lost by nearly 4 to 1 in a statewide referendum. But proponents soon will begin to try to collect the 255,000 signatures necessary to have another referendum on the ballot this year, holding Atlantic City up as proof of casino gambling's success.
In Pennsylvania, state Sen. Paul McKinney (D) of Philadelphia, chairman of the Senate State Government Committee, plans to hold hearings on a casino gambling bill he introduced Feb. 27, 1979. One of the reasons for the new action is that the senator and his committee colleagues have recently returned from a tour of Atlantic City, where -- according to one of Mr. Mckinney's aides -- they were favorably impressed by what they saw.
In New York State, where Democratic Gov. Hugh Carey strongly supports casino gambling for key "resort" areas such as Niagara Falls and Manhattan, indications are that the Legislature in "April or May" will approve preliminary legislation needed for a November 1981 referendum, says Richard Roth, press secretary to New York Senate majority leader Warren M. Anderson (R) of Binghampton.
Speeding the possibility of passage of casino bills in New York are the "economic benefits" New York lawmakers see accruing to New Jersey, says Steve Morello, a spokesman for Governor Carey.
"Politicians find casinos an easy way to find money, rather than slap people with taxes," says Arnold Wexler, vice-president of the National Council on Compulsive Gambling. The organization is dedicated to helping gamblers "break the habit." Its literature says there are as many as 6 million compulsive gamblers in the country.
Up to now, t he federal government has virtually overlooked the problem, Mr. Wexler and other council officials say.
At the meeting with Senators Williams and Javits, scheduled for Jan. 30, the antigambling group will try to create momentum for new federal action.