Generations ago, gambling in America was an illicit activity, dominated by gangsters like Benny Binion and Bugsy Siegel. Today, forty-eight out of fifty states permit some form of legal gambling, and America’s governors sit at the head of the gaming table. But have states become addicted to the revenue gambling can bring? And does the potential of increased revenue lead them to place risky bets on new casinos, lotteries, and online games?
In Gangsters to Governors, journalist David Clary investigates the pros and cons of the shift toward state-run gambling. Unearthing the sordid history of America’s gaming underground, he demonstrates the problems with prohibiting gambling while revealing how today’s governors, all competing for a piece of the action, promise their citizens payouts that are rarely delivered.
Clary introduces us to a rogue’s gallery of colorful characters, from John “Old Smoke” Morrissey, the Irish-born gangster who built Saratoga into a gambling haven in the nineteenth century, to Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate who has furiously lobbied against online betting. By exploring the controversial histories of legal and illegal gambling in America, he offers a fresh perspective on current controversies, including bans on sports and online betting. Entertaining and thought-provoking, Gangsters to Governors considers the past, present, and future of our gambling nation.