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What happens in Vegas

More cash-strapped states are being lured into allowing casinos for the tax revenues. But a new book offers a close-up view of how local residents in Las Vegas are worse off than the rest of the country.

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A number of Northeast states, notably Massachusetts and New York, are moving to allow casinos as a permanent fix for a temporary shortage of tax revenue. During tough economic times, politicians often find it more convenient to turn a vice into cash than to nurture new businesses that can actually make things.

Look a bit closer, however, and you’ll notice that these latest pro-gambling moves by states also include money to help addictive gamblers. Yes, officials are forced to admit they are responsible for creating addicts by putting casinos near large populations. How do they know?

Just look at Nevada, where the local people (not the tourists) are nearly twice as likely to be problem gamblers as the rest of the nation, and where there are 14 meetings of Gamblers Anonymous a day.

And according to a new book on the social fallout from the gambling industry, Nevada also now has “higher rates of crime, bankruptcy filings, home foreclosures, divorces, and suicides than anywhere else in the country.”

The book’s author, Sam Skolnik, should know. He not only admits to being a problem gambler but he covered Las Vegas as a reporter for the city’s Sun newspaper. The book, “High Stakes: The Rising Cost of America’s Gambling Addiction,” should be required reading for any state legislator who must vote on allowing or expanding gambling.

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