Taking a Gamble on Casino Regulation

You pull the lever. Fruit, gemstones, and sevens whir before your eyes. Suddenly, the slot machine goes dark before text blinks onto the screen: “You have reached the maximum time allotted to play the slots. Please leave the casino floor.” The adjacent clock indicates that it is almost morning. Casinos are typically portrayed as windowless and well-lit, providing patrons with the illusion of timelessness by banning clocks and allowing unlimited turns on machines and tables. But this illusion is alive and consequential in the mind of Jim Leitzel. In a recent paper, Leitzel, director of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago, seeks to transform the way states regulate casinos. Rejecting the status quo, in which regulations aim to optimize casino revenue, Leitzel argues that states should instead develop rules that call for casinos to “nudge” irrational gamblers into more socially desirable behavior. His proposed regulations would compel casinos…

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