VAST 282

Gambling: Here and Everywhere

Instructor: Derek Smith

Office: 224 Pardee Hall

Office Phone: (610) 330-5283


There will be one required Saturday field trip.

Course Description: In the fall of 2005, the city council of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, voted on the issue of allowing casino gambling on the former site of Bethlehem Steel. Rarely has a question polarized a city to such a profound extent: should Bethlehem, founded upon Moravian values of discipline and hard work and once a monolith of industrial strength, welcome gambling and its promise of the possibility of instant wealth? Proponents touted a proposed $879 million casino-anchored development plan as a probable economic windfall for the city, with thousands of jobs created. Opponents feared sharp rises in crime, poverty, and addiction associated with what many see as a house of sin. At the end of a series of several contentious hours-long public meetings, the city council voted 4-to-3 to allow gambling; over 2000 slot machines can now be found less than 2 miles from Lehigh University.

Bethlehem's debate is America's debate, as legalized gambling continues to spread into new states and municipalities in many different forms. In this course, we will introduce and analyze the mechanisms of gambling and the games that are played, including roulette, online poker, blackjack, and beckoning slot machines, to name a few. More importantly, we will continually examine the benefits and costs of gambling, including those social, economic, and psychological.