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Nearly 50 years ago, gangster "Bugsy" Siegel built a casino in the desert town of Las Vegas, Nevada, unwittingly altering the course of American social history. Today, practically anywhere in America, you can try your luck at lottery offerings of every description, electronic keno, and other games of chance. Casinos are popping up everywhere. Our authors search for precedents in America's history of ambivalence toward gambling, and they weigh the pleasures and perils of this increasingly popular national pastime.

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