Don't Take a Chance

THERE seems to be no shortage of hard-up communities, or even countries, enticed by the siren call of casino gambling. Recent news reports say that Bridgeport, Conn., Niagara Falls, N.Y., and, yes, Mexico, are giving serious thought to gaming their way out of an economic hole.

Bridgeport is a coastal city whose glory days of manufacturing ended many decades ago. Its population is now largely black and Hispanic; its social problems are profound. A casino operators' bidding war for Bridgeport's seafront is already under way. But are waiters' and blackjack-dealers' jobs the future Bridgeport's unemployed youths need?

Niagara Falls has some of Bridgeport's economic challenges plus a bona fide tourist draw. But that city, too, must ask itself whether gambling will bring the tourist upsurge it craves - or just new problems. Mexico's casino advocates see a future in which thinning tourist hordes flock to parts of the Caribbean where gaming is allowed.

There's a desperation among those who eye gambling as salvation for economic woes. It mirrors the desperation of individuals who squander billions of dollars at gaming tables each year. And there's a cool predation on the part of the gambling executives who feed on it.

Gambling is a dead end for individuals, communities, and society.

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