Gambling Attitudes

In 2016, Nevada casinos posted total earnings of over $25 billion for the year. Of that, more than $1 in every $3 came from gambling, helping the city (and state) post more than $889 million in tax revenue in 2015.

Nevada isn’t the only state collecting significant earnings off casinos either. In fact, despite being nearly synonymous with gambling, Nevada doesn’t even earn the most tax revenue from casinos or gambling – after New York, the top title goes to Pennsylvania which amassed $1.38 billion in 2015.

In Nevada, gaming provides more to the community than just entertainment and tax support, though. With thousands of employees, large spikes in tourism, and even public school funding, you may wonder why gambling still carries such a stigma in many parts of the country. To understand how people really feel about gambling today, we polled 1,000 Americans to get their take on the morality behind gambling, whether it should be legalized, and how well they understood their states’ laws on the issue. Read on to see what we uncovered.

Betting on Integrity

                                    showing percentage of people who believe gambling to be morally acceptable or wrong

The history of gaming in America goes back even further than you might realize. Steeped in Prohibition-era laws, the Great Depression, and even the Revolutionary War, gambling has continued to evolve since the birth of America. It wasn’t until 1929 when the stock market crash and Hoover Dam project propelled lawmakers to legalize gambling in Nevada, and even today, only one other state (Louisiana) has completely decriminalized casino gambling.

But why so much controversy? With the fear of loss, regret, and greed looming over the debate of legalizing gambling, it could come down to a question of morality. According to our survey, nearly 3 in 4 Americans admitted gambling was a morally acceptable pastime. While addiction can certainly be a real concern for some, research shows these tendencies only impact a small percentage of those who play each year.

Among the most acceptable forms of gambling according to respondents? State lotteries, office pools, and casino gambling. Nearly half of Americans reported playing the state lottery in 2016, and in 2014, lotto contributions equaled $70 billion in the 43 states where playing is currently legal. Political wagers, in addition to off-track and racetrack horse betting, were seen as somewhat more nefarious, possibly as a response to animal rights and cruelty in the horse racing industry.

Speculating Across Party Lines

Percentage of Americans who know their state's gambling laws

The laws governing the right to gamble in person and online, placing bets on sporting events, and playing the local lottery can vary significantly from state to state. In 2009, Delaware became one of only four states (including Nevada, Oregon, and Montana) to allow betting on sports. In most areas, casino gambling is only legal in certain cities or municipalities, but in four states (including Idaho and Minnesota), gambling is legal for anyone over the age of 18. In some others (including Alabama, Utah, and Nevada), there are no state lotteries .

34% of
                                    Democrats are willing to sign a petition to legalize gambling in their state

Given the variation in legislation on gambling across the country, it may not be surprising to learn that some people don’t know their state’s laws, let alone what might be legal in other parts of the U.S.

More than 57% of people who identified as Republican knew their state’s gambling laws compared to roughly 54% of Democrats and less than 47% of Independent voters. Republicans were also more likely to believe gambling stimulated the economy. Despite the opinions of their constituency, Republican lawmakers recently passed a resolution to deny casinos and horse racing in Georgia. However, President Trump may be in favor of online casinos. Our survey found fewer than 1 in 5 Republicans were opposed to legalizing gambling in their state.

18% of
                                    Republicans do not want gambling legalized in their state

Political Misconduct

Percentage of Americans who find various topics morally acceptable

The morality of gambling wasn’t the only ethical consideration Republicans and Democrats were split on. In fact, we found very few similarities between the way Americans of various political persuasions answered questions of morality and conduct.

Despite over 71% of Republicans believing gambling stimulated the economy, less than 1 in 5 thought it was morally acceptable. On average, Americans who identified as Republican were more likely to support the use of contraceptives or the death penalty over casinos and racetracks.

People who identified as Democrats were more than twice as likely as Republicans to deny any moral concerns with gambling, but they still weren’t entirely convinced. Democrats were less ethically concerned with abortion, divorce, and even extramarital sex than betting on the luck of the draw.

The tension between Republicans and Democrats has been growing, and the partisan divide today could be worse than ever. Americans who participated in our survey with opposing political views had the most conflicting opinions when asked about abortion, extramarital sex, and homosexuality – topics Republicans found less morally acceptable than Democrats.

Excessively Attached

                                    perception of most addictive gambling types

When gambling transforms from a casual hobby or pastime to a need or compulsion, it’s possible addiction has taken over. Characterized by an uncontrollable urge to keep gambling, research has linked the brain’s reward system stimulated by compulsive gambling to drug and alcohol misuse. Based on our poll, Americans had differing opinions on which type of gambling was the most addictive of all.

More than half of Americans suggested casino gambling might be the most dangerous. Perhaps due to social elements or the variety of games offered at most casinos, online gambling, state lotteries, and sports betting were seen as less problematic or likely to become habitual. While research has found as many as 4 in 5 Americans will gamble at least once in their life, roughly 2 million people across the country are addicted to gambling.

A Fine Line

Percentage of Americans who believe investing is a form of gambling

Imagine having money to spend and hoping to turn it into more rather than less. There may be specific risks associated with increasing your capital this way, but you know you can make choices to help turn the odds in your favor. Still, at the end of the day, how much money you walk away with is owed to a certain amount of luck beyond the decisions you make. So are we talking about gambling or investing your money in something else (like the stock market)?

When it comes to differentiating between gambling and investing, analysts have to get into some pretty fine details to separate the two concepts. In both gaming and investing, a person can be casually committed or even go so far as to make a living developing a skill set that helps boost their chances over time.

According to Americans surveyed, more than half of people believed investing was a form of gambling regardless of their political affiliation. People who felt this way were also more likely to contribute to their retirement savings, stocks, insurance, and investment funds.

Enjoying the Game

Attitudes on gambling across the country are changing. A vast majority of Americans didn’t feel morally conflicted when asked about placing wagers, even if there were some political divides. While Americans were less supportive of betting that involved animals (including on- or off-track horse racing) or politics, at least 87% or more were comfortable wagering on sports, gambling at casinos, and playing the lottery.

Given the variety of laws in place, you may not be able to place a sports bet locally or even play the lottery, but, like public perception, the laws around online gaming are changing too. If you want to try your hand at a digital round of poker or even internet slots, rated the top Canadian online casinos available. Visit us at to learn more and start playing now.


For this campaign, we surveyed 1,000 Americans about their current attitudes toward gambling. Respondents who identified as outside of Republican, Democrat, or Independent were excluded in our political breakdowns due to a low sample size; however, their responses were counted throughout the rest of the project.


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