Special Report

States Spending the Most and Least on Gambling

Gambling is becoming legal in more states and in different ways as of late. With online betting and the rising popularity of fantasy sports and sports betting, there are more ways than ever to wager.

Many people consider gambling ill-advised or even sinful. In some of the most religious states gambling is outlawed in some or all forms because of moral objections.

Yet it is allowed and even encouraged by other states as taxes on casinos and profits from lotteries add hundreds of millions of dollars to state coffers where gambling is permitted. The states that allow gambling collected a total of $35.1 billion in 2016, helping to offset state debt

24/7 Wall St. reviewed lottery spending data from the U.S. Census Bureau and commercial casino spending data from the American Gaming Association to determine the states spending the most and least on gambling.

The average American adult spends around $261 on casinos and lottery tickets per year. This amount, however, is not evenly spread out. In Nevada, home of Las Vegas, nearly $5,000 per adult resident flowed into the state. In two states, casino and lottery gambling is barred by state law, so residents cannot spend any money on legally operated and taxed gambling.

Click here to read about the states spending the most and least on gambling.

To determine the states where residents spend the most on gambling, 24/7 Wall St. combined casino and lottery revenue per adult in every state and divided by the 2016 state population. 2016 consumer spending in commercial casinos comes from the 2016 State of the States report from the American Gaming Association. The AGA defines commercial casinos as privately owned and licensed by the state. Included are land-based, riverboat, dockside, and racetrack casinos. Because comprehensive data are not available, revenue from tribal casinos are excluded in state totals.

2016 lottery spending is from the U.S. Census Bureau and is the difference between total lottery income and prizes paid to players. Because total state tax revenues are available only through 2016, to calculate the share of total state tax revenue that comes from gambling, 2016 spending data from the AGA was used instead of 2017 for the calculation. Population estimates are from the U.S. Census Bureau and are for 2016.

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