[FOUNTAIN]Lives Fall, but the Money's Good

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[FOUNTAIN]Lives Fall, but the Money's Good

In 1896, Monaco started to decorate Monte Carlo with casinos. Monaco was experiencing severe financial problems, and that led to the idea to increase incomes by turning the city into the most attractive gambling site then on earth. As expected, aristocrats from Europe, including Britain and France, flocked to Monaco pursuing the dream of a jackpot. Stories of love and money, and also of bankruptcy and suicides, are part of Monte Carlo lore.

The word casino comes from the Italian casa, which means a small house. Casinos served as a place for entertainment for the nobility during the Renaissance and also were a place for socializing. During Napoleon's rule, casinos were temporarily legalized in France but later were shut down. Chips were first used for betting in Germany, attracting curiosity from the general public. After the end of World War I, casinos for the general public, which were certified by the Italian government, appeared in Venice. The casinos symbolized decadence and destruction, but were a primary source of finances for the cities that hosted them. Casinos emulating those in Venice spread to other regions of the world.

Las Vegas, which opened casinos during the Great Depression in the 1930s, became the center of the global gaming industry. An international game research center located in Las Vegas studies probability and games that can induce more gamblers. Las Vegas is still the leader of the casino industry, but its position is being threatened.

California allows casino operations within the Native American nations, which poses a great threat to the buoyancy of the Las Vegas gambling industry. Business further deteriorated in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. To increase profits from gambling, experts in psychology and hypnosis were mobilized to create new interesting games.

With the stunted growth of the U.S. and Japanese economies, the two pillars of world enterprise, Asian countries are poised to make money through the casino business.

Not only Indonesia, a nation with an Islamic majority, but also China is considering introducing horse racing or casinos. Kangwon Land, a casino in Korea, recently celebrated its first anniversary. Its net profit for the first year of operation was about 200 billion won ($154 million). Unfortunately, many people have lost all their money there, becoming homeless. Yet several provincial governments are lobbying the central government for casino licenses. Online gambling is also thriving. Young gamblers become old beggars, the saying goes. People are destroying their life while the government collects taxes.

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Choi Chul-joo

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