Skip Navigation

Social Issues



Gambling is a vice industry built on deception and fed by the intentional exploitation of human weakness for the sole purpose of monetary gain.

Today's video gambling machines (modern slots) are designed to be the most addictive form of gambling ever developed. Addiction counselors and psychologists are calling video gambling the "crack cocaine" of the gambling industry. People are becoming addicted to these machines within a year. 1

Increased accessibility and availability of gambling throughout our nation is also to blame for the increase in problem and pathological addictions. 2Nearly a decade ago, a federal research committee estimated that there were about 15 million problem and pathological gamblers in the U.S. alone – 7.9 million were underage children 3

Gambling Defined

Gambling is defined by a combination of three components:

  1. Consideration – something of value placed as a "wager" or bet
  2. Chance – the element of risk
  3. Award – a prize, usually money or an item of value

Gambling in the United States

Gambling has been legalized in 48 states, with the two exceptions being Hawaii and Utah. Approximately 33 percent of the American population does not gamble. Another 46 percent gambles at casinos, while the remaining 21 percent choose other forms of gambling.

About 50-60 percent of the population can be classified as "light bettors." Another 10 percent represent "heavy bettors," 4who account for nearly 61 percent of all table and slot casino revenues. 5Heavy gamblers tend to exhibit more problem and pathological gambling addictions.

In 2006, with all forms of gambling combined, nearly $91 billion was taken in the form of gamblers' losses or in gross annual revenues for gambling operations; this number does not include $6 billion sent out of the U.S. in illegal Internet gambling. 6

The five largest gambling sectors include:

  • Commercial casinos (36% of total revenue)
  • Tribal/Indian casinos (26%)
  • Lotteries (26%)
  • Illegal off-shore Internet gambling (6%)
  • Pari-mutuel wagering – dog/horse racing (4%) 7

According to the American Gaming Association's 2008 State of the States report, about 54.5 million people visited U.S. casinos in 2007 (25 percent of the adult population, 21 years of age and older). 8

Gambling Saturation (2007 Data)

Sector Operations States Gambler Losses
Commercial Casinos 9 467 12 $34.1 Billion
Tribal/Indian Casinos 10 425 28 $26.5 Billion (230 gambling tribes)
Lottery (State-owned) 11 42/DC 42/DC $17.1 Billion ($57.4 billion sales)
Race Track Casinos 12 41 11 $5.3 Billion


Gambling Trends

Poker participation and its short growth phase, based largely on the formation of the World Poker Tour and televised poker tournaments, peaked in 2004 and 2005. But it appeared to experience a 33 percent decline in popularity in 2007 (from the peak years) with only 13 percent of adults gambling on poker during the year.

Race track casino operations – hybrids of casinos, lotteries and pari-mutuel facilities – are becoming increasingly popular with states even though the National Gambling Impact Study Commission advised against allowing casino-style gambling at race tracks:

Recommendation 3.12 - "The Commission recommends that states should refuse to allow the introduction of casino-style gambling into pari-mutuel facilities for the primary purpose of saving a pari-mutuel facility that the market has determined no longer serves the community or for the purpose of competing with other forms of gambling." 13

Racino States with video lottery terminals include Delaware, NewYork, Rhode Island and West Virginia 14Racino States with casino slots include Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.

1R.B. Breen and M. Zimmerman, "Rapid onset of pathological gambling in machine gamblers," Journal of Gambling Studies, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2002.
2Rachel A. Volberg, "Prevalence Studies of Problem Gambling in the United States," Journal of Gambling Studies, Summer 1996, p. 123.
3National Gambling Impact Study Commission Final Report, June 1999, p. 4-1, (21 August 2008).
4Earl L. Grinols, Gambling In America: Costs And Benefits, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 45-46.
5Rachel A. Volberg, et al., "Assessing Self-Reported Expenditures on Gambling," Managerial and Decision Economics, Vol. 22, 1-3, (January – May), Table 2, p. 82.
6"2006 Gross Gambling Revenues by Industry and Change from 2005 US," International Gaming & Wagering Business (IGWB) online, 2008, data compiled by Christiansen Capital Advisors, LLC, (5 February 2008).
7International Gaming & Wagering Business (IGWB) online, 2008.
8"2008 State of the States: The AGA Survey of Casino Entertainment," American Gaming Association online, 2008, (21 August 2008).
9American Gaming Association online, 2008, pp. 3.
10Alan Meister, Ph.D., "2008-2009 Indian Gaming Industry Report," Casino City Press, Analysis Group, Inc., p..2.
11"Member Lotteries: Sales and Profits," North American Association of State & Provincial Lotteries (NASPL) online, 2008, (21 August 2008).
12American Gaming Association online, 2008, pp. 2, 4, 24.
13National Gambling Impact Study Commission Final Report, June 1999, p. 3-18, (21 August 2008).
14American Gaming Association online, 2008, Notes, p. ii.

Featured Websites
From Focus on the Family
  • Plugged In
  • Boundless
  • The Family Project
  • For Kids
  • The Truth Project
  • Be a Voice
Featured Websites
Websites for Kids