OUSC Closer Look – What Makes Prison Gambling so Popular?

why is gambling in prison so popularOnce people find themselves in a prison cell, their lives change drastically. In order to find some form of solidarity and consolation for their current state, they act upon basic human nature and engage in social activities like gambling. Even though gambling isn’t allowed within prison walls, inmates always seem to find a way to seek a rush while making some bets.

In order to answer why gambling is so popular in prisons, the staff at OUSC did some research to understand the reasons behind this phenomenon. Keep reading to see what we found out.

Fair Play All The Way – Gambling for a Reason

Gambling is often associated with a specific social category of people – thrill seekers, risk-prone or even outlaws. While this is far from the real contemporary situation which sees top reputable online casinos offer trustworthy gambling action, the stereotype remains. What is more, the popularity of such games of luck and chance in prisons further supports it. Here are 4 reasons why gambling is so popular in prison:


Gambling as a Coping Mechanism

Mindset iconGambling has come to be associated with prisons through a simple explanation of offering an escape from the mundane. While inmates have every waking hour planned out for them, the games’ outcomes offer a feeling of risk, luck, and ultimately victory.

Considering that the potential player pool already consists of people willing to do illegal deeds for the same feeling, proper gambling is a much more desirable form of venting out frustrations, irritations or simply passing the time.


A Sense of Belonging

Network iconDespite being held under meager conditions, the games held on the prison casino floor guarantee a competitive and highly entertaining experience for all the inmates. These type of social events inevitably lead to the creation of a community, as well as a sense of belonging for all its members.

This is even more emphasized in player pools including superstitious prisoners among them. Proof of this are the testimonials of everyone who worked and served time in the Nevada State Prison between 1932 and 1967, during which the prison featured an inside casino operated by inmates known as The Bull Pen.


A Means to an End

History iconIn some cases, gambling has a designated area where peace and order are kept through solidarity rather than control, in an attempt to create beneficial conditions for their gambling practices.

Some researches go as far as to claim that such insider solidarity is part of the prisons’ correctional function, while others perceive it as a means for survival.


Going for the Prize

Coins iconPrisoners don’t actually bet in money or other financial valuables – they bet in essentials ranging from a chocolate bar or a full prisoner’s lunch meal, through hygiene products, books, magazines, and the likes.

Some even continue practicing their vices, so they bet on a pack of cigarettes, drugs or any alcohol that has found its way within prison walls.

The Games These Days

Nowadays, casino games have taken to all kinds of formats. From land-based to online casinos and all the way to live dealer casinos and mobile gaming, there is an unlimited pool of opportunities for gambling. Even though it’s hard to believe, the same can be said for those inside prison walls. Prisoner experiences from The Bull Pen, as well as other institutions, testify to all kinds of bets, stakes, and gambles made by their fellow inmates.

Stories from Within

A testimonial from a Pennsylvania U.S. inmate claims that players engage in casino gambling of all kinds. While the standard card games, casino, rummy, Texas poker, and the basic blackjack variants are popular, there are also Monopoly and Risk games which are just as common.

What Makes Prison Gambling So Popular?

Gambling as a thrilling and adrenaline-infused practice has positive psychological effects on the daily lives of prison inmates. Whether as a coping mechanism or a sense of belonging in a community, to some extent, gambling can create conditions for a healthier and beneficial pastime.

All in all, gambling and prisoners go hand in hand like the bars of each cell – not completely necessary within the wall confines, but still contributing in their own way.

About the Author
Shelly Schiff

Shelly Schiff - Collaborator

Especially enjoys writing about casino and bingo, but she also has experience creating content about crypto and partnerships.