WHO SAYS the economy is troubled? Why whine about gas prices being too high?

Looking at the daily take from the seven Pennsylvania casinos is a study in the surreal, considering the crunch most of us feel. Consider: On any given weekday, casino-goers wager $40 million; that goes up to about $72 million on the weekends. This generates $2.7 million a day for the commonwealth.

Since the slots parlors opened around the state, gamblers have wagered $21 billion; the state has paid out $19.2 billion, keeping about $1.76 billion. These are head-spinning numbers, and we wonder: What is all that money that people are wagering not buying? And what does society give up by that money going to gambling?

The numbers make the generous contract of Anne Neeb, head of the Gaming Control Board, seem like small potatoes: Neeb resigned as of Friday, but draws her $180,000 salary until September. The board says she will still consult, so it's not a gift, but given the board's scandal-stained history, we wish it had been a little more consicous of appearances, and been more sensitive to the disparity between its executive salaries and perks and those of the average taxpayer, no matter how much money he is gambling away. *