Steve Chapman

The industry's support for change is a mixed blessing, as the New Jersey measure illustrates. Gamblers would have to establish accounts with casinos, and industry officials "expect the state to require gamblers to have to appear in person at a casino to open their accounts and verify their age, identity and other personal information," reports The Associated Press. A rule of this kind would serve to get patrons in the door, where they may be induced to buy food, drink and tickets to a show.

The new law also requires participants to be physically in New Jersey to place bets, at least for now. What lies ahead is far from being a wide-open, consumer-driven business. Still, it's a far better deal for customers than being denied a legal avenue to Internet betting.

Drastic change hasn't happened overnight, and it won't start now. But we have seen a steady, gradual process of opening up freedom in this particular realm -- a process that is not about to end.

That's because as more and more Americans have encountered legal gambling, they have discarded the exaggerated fears that once blocked it. The vast majority of patrons, it turns out, don't become compulsive gamblers, don't blow the rent on blackjack and don't desert their families.

Bringing a casino into a community is not likely to set off a wave of crime or social decay. Neither is allowing it in the home.

Attitudes that took years to change are not about to turn around. At a casino or a racetrack, you can't be certain of winning any wager. But in the policy arena, the continued expansion of legal gambling is as close as you can get to a sure thing.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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