Theses Doctoral

The Jackpot Mentality: The Growth of Government Lotteries and the Suppression of Illegal Numbers Gambling in Rio de Janeiro and New York City

Vaz, Matthew

This dissertation examines social and political conflict over gambling policy in the United States and Brazil from 1960 to the present with a particular focus on New York City and Rio de Janeiro. The study accounts for the process by which illegal numbers gambling in New York and the jogo do bicho in Rio de Janeiro were determined to be the basis for widespread corruption and lawlessness. As policy makers proposed enhanced government lotteries as a solution for the problem of illegal gambling, numerous groups scrambled for position within shifting gambling frameworks. Tens of thousands of persons who had long worked in illegal numbers networks pressed for access to legal gambling jobs, corporate entities partnering with government lotteries pushed to secure monopoly concessions, while many citizens and religious groups opposed any and all forms of gambling legalization. As gambling workers, bettors, clergy, police officers, politicians and corporate lobbyists all struggled over how gambling would be conducted going forward, an intense debate unfolded in both Brazil and the United States with issues relating to police corruption, welfare, public safety, state sovereignty, personal liberty, and distribution of the tax burden all under examination. While there are many comparative elements of this study, it is ultimately transnational in that the narrative histories of gambling policy in Brazil and the United States eventually converge through the gambling technology corporation Gtech, which emerged as a powerhouse in the government lottery sectors of both nations. As the low stakes illegal gambling games of the numbers and the jogo do bicho are suppressed in favor of legal government lotteries, a vast new array of gambling habits are introduced to the gambling public in both Brazil and the United States. Of particular importance to this study is the growth of multimillion-dollar jackpot games offered by governments and their corporate partners. As players leave behind the old games with their reasonable odds and their modest payouts, they take up new games with astronomical odds and obscene jackpots. In the argument of this study, jackpot style gambling has brought the gambling habits of the poor and working classes into accord with contemporary patterns of wealth distribution.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Coatsworth, John H.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 18, 2011