Facts About Gambling in the United States

August 24, 2021

When it comes to gambling in the United States, you tend to realize that things aren’t as united as they seem. Gambling is one of the most contentious in American politics, all the way up there with abortions and gay marriage.

There are states like Hawaii that don’t even have a lottery, while others have an abundance of gambling options, including retail casinos, tribal casinos, online casinos, and sports betting options.

Gambling is a restricted pastime, both on the federal level and state level. Nevertheless, it generated gross revenues of hundreds of billions and contributes billions to state and local tax revenues.

Types of Gambling in the US

The industry trade group, the American Gaming Association, broke down gambling in the US into different categories.

They are:

  • Cardrooms (public and private)
  • Commercial casinos
  • Charitable games/bingo
  • Tribal casinos
  • Legal bookmaking
  • Lotteries
  • Parimutuel wagering
  • Advance-deposit wagering

Major Contributor to US Economy

One of the reasons that states authorize gambling activities such as lotteries, is that they help raise money for important things such as education and infrastructure.

In 2017, the Center for Gambling Research University Libraries showed how gambling revenues were divided in the US. They showed, for example, that commercial casinos contributed over $41 billion, followed closely by tribal casinos at $32 billion.

However, the biggest contributors, without a doubt, were lotteries, which contributed $80.5 billion.

The Ever-Changing Landscape of Legal Gambling in the US

In 1992, the federal government introduced the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which outlawed sports betting in most states.

In May 2018, after New Jersey went right up to the highest courts to try and overturn the act, the Supreme Court declared that it was unconstitutional. This opened the option for states to decide on their own regulations within their borders.

Since it is still early days since the overturning of PASPA, many states of still trying to pass legislation to legalize and regulate their own industries. States need to decide on many issues, including constitutional changes, which gambling categories to allow and which not to, and online gambling.

Gambling may be outlawed in a state one day, but then suddenly become legal and regulated after the Governor signs an act into law. The fluid nature of gambling regulation in the US makes it impossible to make a prediction just a month in advance.

What’s clear is that more and more states are considering sports betting since the end of PASPA.

At present, sports betting is legal in more than 24 states in one form or another. And we’re not only talking about the obvious states such as Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey. States such as West Virginia, New Mexico and Iowa, also opened their doors to legal sports betting post-PASPA.

Interesting US Gambling Facts

  • Gambling is legal in one form or another in 48 out of 50 states. Only Utah and Hawaii ban gambling all out.
  • 85% of all adult Americans have taken part in some form of gambling activity at some stage in their lives.
  • 60% of all adult Americans have gambled at least once in the past year.
  • The lottery is the most popular form of gambling across the nation. Around half of all American adults have played the lottery in the past year.
  • A quarter of all adult Americans played in a casino in the past year.
  • The global online gambling market is worth $58.9 billion.
  • The US’s fantasy sports sector is worth $8.5 billion.
  • There are 46 million fantasy sports players in the US.
  • Nevada’s casino poker games win amount totaled $91.36 million.
  • Just over 19 million visitors visit Las Vegas every year.
  • 14% of Americans who visit Las Vegas do so primarily to gamble.
  • The gambling industry supports 1.8 million jobs across 40 states.
  • There are around 900,000 gambling machines in US casinos, both commercial and tribal. This also includes gambling machines in bars and gas stations. Half of the slot machines are found in commercial casinos, while 41% are found in tribal casinos.
  • The Las Vegas Strip is the top gambling market in the US, followed by Atlantic City, New Jersey. Chicagoland, Baltimore/Washington Dc, and New York City come in 3rd, 4th, and 5th spots respectively.
  • There are over 200 casinos in Nevada. Oklahoma only has 2.

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