Questionable political dealings and casino gambling are merely two sides of the same coin in New Jersey and Nevada, according to many experts on the subject.
On the surface, the casino industry may appear to be shiny and bright, festooned with neon and offering revenue jackpots to states. But critics of the industry charge that its underside is crisscrossed with influence -peddling, conflicts of interest, diluted regulations, racketeering, and unaddressed social problems.
From interviews with government officials, law enforcement professionals, and other sources knowledgeable about the casino industry, correspondent Ward Morehouse III learned that:
* New Jersey's original intention to keep the gambling industry under strict regulatory control has steadily eroded. A surprising number of former government and law enforcement officials there, as in Nevada, are now employed in the casino industry, sometimes directly involved in operations that they used to police or regulate.
* The casino industry in Nevada, the first state to legalize casino gambling, remains plagued by charges of ties to organized crime.
* The problems of political corruption and infiltration by organized crime are key factors causing other states to carefully weigh the adverse side effects casinos can bring.