No windows, no clocks, no worries. It’s just you and the machine, or you and the dealer. The only thing that pushes you to bet more is that fleeting hope that this could be it — this could be the big one.

Whether that’s $100, $1,000 or $10,000, recent statistics show the thought of winning money without working for it is a temptation many people cannot resist.

Last year, Arizonans and tourists forked out more than $7.6 billion to tribal casinos in the state, according to a study released today by tribal gaming expert Alan Meister, an economist at Analysis Group.

Although the figure includes recycled winnings, the bottom line is that Arizonans and tourists are gambling at the rate of about $875,000 every hour of every day.

Jon Jenkins, CEO of Casino Arizona on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, said the figure seems a little high to him. But he’s noticed gambling’s popularity grow in recent years.

"The opinion of gambling has changed socially," Jenkins said. "It used to be something that people didn’t accept as widely as they do today, as a form of entertainment."

But gambling is more than a form of entertainment — it’s a moneymaker. And in Arizona, casinos make more money than almost every other state in the nation.

Meister said the 22 Indianrun casinos in Arizona had gaming revenue last year of $1.5 billion, a 26 percent increase over 2003. That figure represents what the gamblers left behind when they went home: It includes what tribes got to keep after paying out winnings, but before paying costs.

The revenue represents just a fraction of what customers bet because state law lets the tribes keep no more than 20 percent of what is wagered: The other 80 percent must be paid out to gamblers.

But that $1.5 billion was good enough to put Arizona in third place in tribal gaming revenue, behind only California and Connecticut.

Gambling thrives in Arizona because casinos ring major cities such as Phoenix and Tucson, Meister said. Also, casinos enjoyed a boost in 2002, when voters approved Proposition 202, which allowed more gaming machines and added games such as blackjack.

But that convenience has led to more than popularity.

Millions of people in the United States, including Mesa resident Tom Scott, are addicted to gambling.

The 27-year-old was walking out of Casino Arizona on Tuesday with his friend when he explained he visits a casino nearly every day. He’s lost as much as $6,000 at a time.

"I’m just hooked," Scott said. "I’ve never even won a jackpot. I keep thinking I’m going to get paid back."

Scott, whose games of choice are blackjack and slot machines, said he has considered filling out a self-exclusion form, which would ban him from gambling in a state casino for at least a year.

About 800 Arizonans have filled out the forms, which prohibit them from gambling for one, five or 10 years at a time. If they succumb to the pressure and decide to gamble, they cannot claim jackpots, according to Christa Severns, a spokeswoman with the Arizona Department of Gaming.

Instead, their jackpots are donated to charities, Severns said.

Individual casinos have offered self-exclusion forms for years. But with the passage of Proposition 202, the gaming department made the forms available online and through the mail. Gamblers can fill out one form to block them from every Arizona casino.

Mesa resident Sharon Clevenstine, 59, said she does not have a gambling problem, but nothing compares to the way she feels when she’s at the casino.

"I don’t care whether I win or lose," she said. "I’m just sitting there, watching that screen and not thinking about anything else."

But the state has an interest in Arizonans going to the casinos because Prop. 202 also requires tribes to share up to 8 percent of their revenue with the state — a figure that in the last 12 months totaled about $65 million. The tribes also gave about another $9 million to cities and counties in revenue sharing.

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