Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Gambling: As the Take Rises, So Does Public Concern

A modest backlash in attitudes towards legalized gambling has taken hold among an American public that spends more money on more forms of legal gambling now than at any time in the nation’s history.

Seven-in-ten (70%) Americans say that legalized gambling encourages people to gamble more than they can afford, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. By contrast, 62% expressed that concern in 1989 when the same question was posed in a Gallup survey.

Similarly, 71% of the public today – down from 78% in 1989 – approves of lotteries as a way for states to raise revenue. Public support for other forms of legalized gambling, such as casino, off-track betting on horse racing and pro sports betting, has either been stable or declined since 1989.

These findings come at a time when gambling has become more pervasive in the popular culture, with a record number of casinos operating across the country, with online gambling gaining fast in popularity (albeit from a small base), with several celebrities going public with their gambling problems and exploits, and with poker tournaments having become a new form of television entertainment.

Despite all this, the survey finds that fewer people now (23%) than in 1989 (34%) say that they enjoy making bets; it also finds a decline, compared with 1989, in the overall percentage of people who report that they made a bet of any kind in the past year. Betting on horse racing and pro sports, in particular, has dropped off.

However, the survey also finds a sharp increase since 1989 in some high profile forms of betting — including casino gambling and slot machines. These findings line up with industry reports that show that these forms of gambling have been in a period of rapid growth.

The Pew telephone survey was conducted from Feb. 8 through March 7, 2006 among a nationally representative, randomly selected sample of 2,250 adults.

Read the full report for more details.

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