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High Stakes: The Rising Cost of America's Gambling Addiction

1 rating: 4.0
2011 nonfiction book by Sam Skolink

America is becoming hooked on gambling. From the millions of dens and dorm rooms lit by online poker games to the neighborhoods transformed by new casinos and slot machine parlors, legalized gambling has become an integral part of our lives.   … see full wiki

Publisher: Beacon Press
Date Published: July 5, 2011
1 review about High Stakes: The Rising Cost of America's...

One of the most chronically underreported forms of addiction in the United States.

  • Jul 8, 2011
  • by
There's just  no doubt about it.  The incidence of problem and pathological gambling in this country has been on the rise for quite some time now.  The emerging problem was chronicled quite well a decade and a half ago in Robert Goodman's 1996 book "The Luck Business: The Devastating Consequences and Broken Promises of America's Gambling Explosion". In that book Goodman makes an extremely convincing case that the social costs associated with gambling far outweigh the potential benefits touted by both the gaming industry and government officials.  Goodman posited that state lotteries and casino gambling siphon off money from the local economy while at the same time significantly increasing the number of problem and pathological gamblers in our midst.  The evidence seems indisputable.  But the landscape has changed dramatically over the past 15 years and according to author Sam Skolnik the problems associated with gambling in America have actually gotten much worse.  His new book "High Stakes: The Rising Cost of America's Gambling Addiction" bring us all up to speed on this important and fascinating subject.  It is a real eye-opener!

In "High Stakes" Sam Skolnik focuses on the astonishing growth of gambling opportunities in recent years.  I was shocked to learn that there are now approximately 850,000 slot machines in operation around the U.S.  I had no idea!  In some states slots can only be found in casinos.  But in places like South Dakota slot machines have been installed in restaurants, bars and even in supermarkets.  And if this were not enough 43 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands now run lotteries.  Government officials are increasingly turning to gambling to raise badly needed revenue without much regard for the inevitable social costs of gambling that include increased crime, lost work time, personal bankruptcies, higher divorce rates, the need to open addiction treatment centers and the list goes on and on.  In addition, gambling revenue comes from money that would otherwise have been spent at local businesses and services, and thus acts as a drain on the local economy.  Instead of citizens spending money on food, clothing or entertainment, it's spent on gambling.  But at the end of the day most state legislators grossly underestimate these costs when opting to expand gambling rather than cut costs or increase taxes.  They are not exactly profiles in courage.  Furthermore, since Goodman wrote his book we have seen an explosion in internet gambling across the nation and around the world.  Skolnik points out that college students are particularly vulnerable to this form of gambling.  Sam Skolnik also devotes an entire chapter of the book to the serious problem of addictive gambling in the Asian-American community.  Not being much of a gambler myself I was totally unaware that this problem even existed.  Likewise, Skonik profiles "The Rise of the Poker Junkie" in another chapter of the book.  The idea that grown men and women would sit and watch a poker game on TV was inconcievable a generation ago.  And finally, "High Stakes" also spotlights some of the questionable research being done on the problem of addictive gambling. It turns out that the vast majority of these studies are being funded by the gaming industry itself with highly questionable conclusions.

Because I read Robert Goodman's book all those years ago I was drawn to "High Stakes: The Rising Cost of America's Gambling Addiction" to learn more about the current status of this issue.  What I found was very alarming. For far too many Americans that tantalizing dream of instant wealth is always one pull of the slot machine away or one more hand of poker from happening. The highly sophisticated marketing and advertising campaigns conducted by the gaming industry make it more and more difficult for individuals to resist the temptation. I found "High Stakes" to be very well-researched and quite nicely written. I learned an awful lot and Skonik's book only reinforces my opinion that the states should not be so reliant on more gambling to raise revenue. See if you agree.   Highly recommended!
One of the most chronically underreported forms of addiction in the United States. One of the most chronically underreported forms of addiction in the United States. One of the most chronically underreported forms of addiction in the United States. One of the most chronically underreported forms of addiction in the United States.

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July 09, 2011
There is one general rule that is good to follow religiously. That is, THE HOUSE NEVER LOSES ! Go to any gambling casino with a predefined budget- say $100 . Once you lose that amount- walk out.
July 09, 2011
Fantastic write-up as always Paul! I'm a big fan of house poker parties because a) I can afford it- usually $20 lasts me all night long, b) if I lose, I lose to a friend (hopefully the one that's hosting the poker party), and c) I don't have to dip into any savings or my rent fund to have a good time, often saving money than a usual night out.

But, I used to work at Harrah's in Reno, Vegas and Tahoe in the Entertainment Department and it was crazy how far people go with their bets. It's crazy what happens when they lose. It's crazy that they go away for a weekend and spend a cool million dollars, without batting an eye because we're so busy distracting them with "freebies". What's even worse, the effect on the community that houses casinos, is astronomically horrific.

If you look to Native American reservations, where often the only decent job can only be found in a casino, you'll see what I'm talking about. Often, the gambling addiction takes over, often alongside alcohol or drug addiction, robbing the entire community of any economic stability, pride, or escape from extreme poverty. Thanks for shedding a light on this for those that might not be aware!
July 09, 2011
Your approach to poker sounds very sensible to me. I find that the more you poke into the subject of gambling the more disturbing it is. I think younger people are especially vulnerable these days as poker has been glamorized on TV and the opportunity to gamble on the internet Has to be irresistable to many of them. You might recall that some time ago I did a review on Lotteries. Since you have experience working in the gaming industry you might want to do a review of gambling in general or casino gambling in particular. I think you have a lot to say on the subject that many people need to hear.
July 09, 2011
I think you're right..I'm going to have to add that to my list of to write reviews. I think that you're right about Internet gambling, my brother became one of its biggest followers until finally he saw that it wasn't giving him anything worthy of all the money he was pouring into it.
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