From the 1950s through the 1970s, American policymakers engaged in an extensive campaign against illegal gambling in an effort to turn the tide in the government’s crusade against organized crime. At the grassroots, however, voters endorsed a different form of state expansion to beat back the mob menace. Between 1963 and 1977, fourteen northeastern and Rust Belt states enacted the first government-run lotteries in the twentieth-century United States on the belief that legalized gambling would undercut the mob’s gambling profits. While gambling opponents pointed to Las Vegas as proof that organized crime would flourish following legalization, supporters argued that illegal gambling was already pervasive, so the state may as well profit from this irrepressible activity. The history of gambling legalization challenges narratives on the popularity of law-and-order politics and offers a new perspective on crime policy in the post–World War II period.


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pp. 533-556
Launched on MUSE
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