Casinos hold sway in 39 states, up from just two a few decades ago

December 2, 2013

A gaming machine at Alabama’s new Wind Creek Wetumpka casino. (Dave Martin/AP)

Earlier today we wrote about how New Jersey has become the third state to legalize online gambling, with at least eight others considering similar policies. But what appears to be growing support of online gambling mirrors a broader shift toward legalizing the real thing.

Over the weekend, The Washington Post’s J. Freedom du Lac wrote about how Virginia remains one of the few holdouts as state after state has embraced the draw of casino gambling.

“Contained to just Nevada and New Jersey a quarter-century ago, casinos now hold sway, in various forms, in 39 states. A 40th, Massachusetts, is in the process of selecting operators to open three full-blown casinos plus a slots parlor,” he wrote.

The other holdouts are Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Vermont. But the attraction of easy tax revenue for cash-strapped states has experts anticipating that that group will shrink.

But even proponents of legalizing casino gambling in Virginia aren’t holding their breath that the state will be next, J. Freedom du Lac reports:

“Forty-nine states will have it before we get it,” lamented Richard L. Saslaw, the Virginia Senate’s Democratic leader who has supported casino proposals in the past.

Forty-nine? “Maybe 48,” the senator from Fairfax County said, acknowledging that Utah might hold out longer.

Read his deep dive on the Virginia effort here.

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.
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Niraj Chokshi | December 2, 2013