The Economy Today: Gambling on Tomorrow

Headlines from Nevada, Mississippi, Texas, and elsewhere

All the national papers lead with Obama’s tightening of emissions and gas mileage rules. The Times also sees signs that banks which received government bailouts are eager to return the money to avoid government oversight and taxpayer ownership. It’s worth noting here just how quickly the banks received the money in the first place, given how slow the stimulus to states has been. And USA Today finds that adoption agencies are seeing more inquiries as financially strapped families consider giving up their babies.

On the local front, gamblers are less eager to risk their earnings, according to dispatches from Nevada and Mississippi. And Michigan real-estate agents are taking their pitches to the stage in a gamble to sell more properties.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette features personal stories about local families facing the recession in its “Hard Times” series. The latest installment follows the Manginells, a couple who may be forced to leave their hometown because there are no jobs in Emprorium, Pennsylvania. It’s an intimate piece of reporting on the personal side of the economic crisis: “Anything that I ever wanted was here, except for a job,” says Steve Manginell.

Besides foreclosures, another type of real-estate listing is becoming more common in Michigan. The Flint Journal finds that short sales in which lenders accept a lower amount than what’s owed on a mortgage is one way that struggling families can keep or purchase homes. According to local realtors, such listings make up 15 percent of the total for-sale properties. Some real-estate agents are hoping to move sales by pitching properties in person. A recent event brought interested buyers together with agents who present their listing on stage.

A different kind of real-estate story from the Forum of Fargo and Moorhead, North Dakota. The paper reports on a local college student who launched a business selling real estate in Iraq, after he learned through a New York Times story that the housing market was booming in Baghdad. Derrick Turner graduated from high school in 2005, but now he deals with two Iraqi partners to sell properties priced from $120,000 to $3.8 million.

Gambling is Nevada’s pet issue, and today’s Las Vegas Sun leads with news that online poker players launched a successful effort to bring online gambling to the top of President Obama’s Citizens Briefing Book priorities. When a Web site offered citizens the chance to weigh in on Obama’s agenda, online pokers organized to push for a bill to repeal the ban on online gambling. In May, Barney Frank introduced legislation that would lift the ban. But, in the brick-and-mortar world, gamblers and tourists are staying away from Vegas. Business travel numbers are down 30 percent.

In Texas, 8,000 of the state’s disabled citizens will receive aid from a $500 million measure set to pass the legislature this month. The bill would expand social services for the mentally disabled, including providing additional housing and enact protections for residents, including video surveillance and random state inspections, the San Antonio Express-News reports. And a guest editorial from a local real-estate executive urges business owners to avoid cutting back on insurance and business protection costs during times of crisis.

Vegas isn’t the only place where casinos are the financial lifeblood. The Jackson, Mississippi, Clarion-Ledger reports that visits to area casinos are holding steady, but visitors aren’t staying as long or spending as much. The state receives more than $300 million in tax revenue from casinos on the Gulf Coast.

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Katia Bachko is on staff at The New Yorker.