Ultimate USA Gambling Facts & Revenue [Updated 2018]

According to The American Gaming Association (AGA), the gambling industry in the US is worth $261 billion and supports 1.8 million jobs in 40 states (1); however, gambling has had a difficult (and illegal) history in the USA and it is just up until now that the path is being cleared.

Several anti-gambling laws have been in place since the great depression and gaming has been heavily regulated ever since. Some of those regulations haven’t been updated since the 60’s. Despite this, the widespread use of the internet (and online casinos) have made the betting scene change notably and laws have started to shift (2).

Today, the industry faces a rapid growth and increased revenue moving away from the stigma it once held, making it easier for people to access online gaming and betting.

Gambling Revenues in the USA

USA gambling revenues reach are over $150 billion every year. Now that sports betting is legal, many predict the total revenues for US betting each year will top $200 billion. Whether it’s lottery ticket, slot machines, sports bets, bingo, or poker, Americans love to gamble. Below is a breakdown of the revenue generated by each form of betting each year.

US Gambling Revenues by Category

INDUSTRY 2017 GROSS REVENUES
Commercial Casinos $41.2 Billion
Tribal Casinos $31.945 Billion
Poker Rooms $1.9 Billion
Lottery Revenues $80.55 Billion
Legal Bookmaking $248 Million
US Online Gambling $247.5 Million
Pari-Mutuel $295 Million
Charitable Games/Bingo $2.15 Billion
Total Revenue $158.54 Billion

USA Casino Revenues

US commercial casinos generated $41.2 billion in 2017, a 3.7% increase year-to-year from 2016 and a new record for gross gaming revenues for US commercial casinos. New casinos in Maryland and New York added to the increased revenues in 2017. MGM National Harbor in Maryland was the most successful new casinos, but Del Lago Resorts, Rivers Casino, and Resorts World Catskills in New York state also contributed.

The National Indian Gaming Council still has not released full tribal casino statistics, so the NIGC’s 2016 gross gaming revenues are the most recent official revenue statistics. In 2016, America’s tribal casinos generated $31.195 million in gross gaming revenues. That is up nearly $1.3 billion from 2015, which itself increased $1.4 billion from 2014. If one projected similar growth year-to-year from 2016 to 2017, one might expect to see gross gaming revenues in the range of $33.3 billion for 2017. To avoid speculation, we list the 2016 official statistics. The NIGC releases the previous year’s figures in June or July each year, so check back for the latest results.

2017 US Poker Room Revenues

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Nevada poker room revenues showed less than 1% growth, as gross gaming revenues were $118.46 million. The 2017 poker rake was $117.7 million. The Nevada figures were a minor miracle, considering that several Nevada poker rooms closed in the past year. MGM Resorts closed the Mirage poker room in February 2017, while the Hard Rock Las Vegas poker room closed in March 2017 and Luxor cardroom closed in May 2017. (The cardrooms for the Linq, Eastside Cannery, The Plaza, and Aliante Casino closed in 2016.)

Atlantic City’s seven poker rooms added $28.38 million in gross gaming revenues in 2017. Pennsylvania’s live poker revenues equaled $60 million. MGM National Harbor in Maryland collected $44.5 million in poker rake alone last year, which was the vast bulk of Maryland poker revenues in 2017. New York’s new live poker rooms, on the other hand, contributed only $6.7 million to the nation’s live poker revenue total. It is difficult to calculate accurately the live poker revenues for America’s 6,100+ live poker rooms. Tribal casinos contain many card rooms and they do not have to report their earnings to states. Thus, it is likely that some poker revenues might be listed under the tribal casino statistics.

New Jersey Online Gambling Revenues in 2017

New Jersey hub iconUS online gambling produced $247.5 million in revenues in 2017. New Jersey’s online gambling industry continues to grow. In 2017, the combined revenue of Atlantic City’s online casinos and poker sites was $245 million. That’s a 21% increase from 2016 when New Jersey’s iGaming niche generated $195 million. Delaware added only $2.4 million in online gambling revenues, which was an 18% decline.

Mike Lawton of the Nevada Gaming Control Board said online poker revenues are included in total poker revenues for the state, so it is hard to get official statistics for Nevada online poker. Given the fact, only two Nevada online poker sites exist and state regulators try to hide the small revenue stream, one can assume Nevada’s iPoker stats are tiny. Nevada has about twice the online gamblers as Delaware, so $5 million is a safe assumption. Those poker revenues are not included in our figures, though, because they are included in Nevada’s overall poker stats.

US Lottery Revenues in 2016 and 2017

Like the tribal casino revenues, compiling an official list of lottery revenues takes a bit longer each year, because of the patchwork of state-run lotteries and multistate lottery associations. In 2016, US lottery ticket sales were $80.5 billion. The projected figures for 2017 are expected to exceed $85 billion, due to upticks in the sale of scratchcards and the increases in the Powerball and Mega Millions jackpot sizes. Scratch-off tickets are the biggest contributor, with the Powerball and Mega Millions multi-state lottery association games contributing the second and third-most to the revenue pool.

New York state had the biggest lottery ticket sales, with over $10 billion. California, Florida, Massachusetts, and Texas were next in line. Each of those four states had between $5 billion and $6.5 billion in lottery sales.

United States Legal Sportsbooks

Sportsbook iconThe revenue figures for US legal sportsbooks came from Nevada and Delaware in 2017. Nevada bookmakers won $248 million from sports bettors in 2017, which was a record year. New forms of betting on eSports helped, though the growing impact of William Hill USA on the Nevada sports betting scene helped. Even hockey betting was up in 2017, thanks to the inclusion of the Las Vegas Golden Knights to the NHL. The Golden Knights’ surprising first-year performance helped drive local sports betting, though it was general NFL, Super Bowl, MLB, NBA, and March Madness betting which generated the most revenues.

Delaware, which had legalized sports lotteries, generated the remaining $6 million in sports betting revenues. Delaware’s sports lotteries require players to make parlay bets of 3 or more games. Delaware sportsbook revenues should increase significantly in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s repeal of the PASPA sports betting ban. Delaware plans to open legal sportsbooks at Dover Downs, Delaware Park, and Harrington Raceway on June 5, 2018. New Jersey sportsbooks at the Atlantic City casinos and Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport should follow suit quickly. US sports betting revenues should have a big jump in 2018.

US Pari-Mutuel Racebook Revenues 2017

Pari-mutuel racebooks generated $295 million in revenues in 2017. Pari-mutuel wagering is the legal term for betting on horse racing and dog racing. Bettors receive winning for the thoroughbreds, harness racers, or greyhounds which finish in the top three of a particular race (win-show-place). Pari-mutuel wagering also includes a variety of trifecta bets and parlay bets, which pay out more, but hit for the bettor less often.

Churchill Downs, site of the annual Kentucky Derby, generated 60% of the revenue ($173 million) for the horse racing industry in 2017. Besides the world-famous Louisville-area horse track, Churchill Downs Incorporated owns racetracks and even a few land-based casinos across the United States.

Charitable Gaming and Bingo

Bingo game iconAs lottery betting and tribal casinos have increased over the past two decades, charitable gaming and bingo participation has decreased in many states. The numbers haven’t declined across the board, as Michigan’s poker nights (millionaires clubs) increased greatly from 2002 to 2012, due to making it easier to attain a charitable gaming license. Even in Michigan, though, the decline since 2012 has been significant. Meanwhile, Minnesota increased its charitable gaming revenues significantly, as part of a plan to fund the Minnesota Vikings’ football stadium.

As the US population has increased in the past 16 years, the number of charitable organizations holding bingo nights and raffles has increased. That means the overall decline in charitable gaming revenues was slight, from $2.2 billion to $2.15 billion, though the decline in revenue-per-venue and real money value due to inflation is stark.

What Is Gambling in the US?

Online United States CasinosThe gambling industry in the United States is the sum total of all forms of legal betting. US gambling includes commercial and tribal casinos, state and multistate lotteries, sportsbooks and racebooks, licensed online casinos and poker sites, as well as charitable gaming and bingo halls.

US gambling statistics do not include unregulated online gambling, local bookies, organized poker games in your neighborhood, office pools, fantasy leagues, or March Madness brackets. Because such gaming is unregulated and untaxed, it is hard to get accurate statistics for them. The American Gaming Association and other groups estimate yearly betting turnover of illegal gambling, but the AGA’s data is an educated guess.

In this US gambling report, Online United States Casinos stick to the facts. Most of the statistics below are compiled from state regulatory agencies. Each month, gaming commissions, gaming control boards, and state lotteries across the United States produce gambling statistics. We’ve collected the latest gaming data and compiled it into several gambling categories, which we present below.

Is Gambling Legal in the US?

Many forms of gambling are legal in the United States, but no form of gambling is legal everywhere. Because the United States is a constitutional republic with a federated system of government, the USA is a patchwork of state and federal gaming laws. That makes gambling legality complicated in the United States. What it does mean is Americans who love to bet can find places to live with permissive gambling laws, while Americans who dislike gambling can find states where gambling is 100% banned.

In Which States Is Gambling Legal?

United States map placeholderUS gambling laws are complicated because each state deals with its own gaming interests and social mores. Nevada is the most pro-gambling states in the United States, as Las Vegas and Reno are gambling destinations. At the same time, Nevada is one of a handful of states which bans lotteries — because it would compete with the billion-dollar resorts on the Las Vegas Strip. Kentucky bans casino betting, though it is the center of the United States horse racing (and horse betting) industries.

As a general rule, legalized gambling has expanded greatly in the past 25 to 30 years. After the Indian Gambling Regulation Act of 1988, tribal casinos expanded to 28 states. California and Oklahoma are two US states with huge tribal gaming industries, but dozens of others exist. The expansion of tribal gaming caused US states to liberalize their commercial casino industries, so states like Illinois, Ohio, Arizona, and Kansas expanded casinos greatly. Pennsylvania legalized casino betting at racetracks and now collects more gaming tax revenues than any states besides Nevada.

Lottery gambling has grown exponentially, too. The Powerball and Mega Millions have the biggest lottery jackpots in the world. State lotteries’ scratch-card tickets generate the most tax revenue. Meanwhile, online and mobile casino gambling and poker betting has grown in popularity. While many Internet gaming sites are unregulated, legal online/mobile gambling exists in 4 states and is expected to be legalized in other US states in the coming years.

In Which States Is Gambling Banned?

forbidden gambling iconUtah and Hawaii are the only two US states which have a 100% ban on all forms of gambling. In Utah or Hawaii, you can’t visit a casino, buy a lottery ticket, make a sports bet, or even play in a bingo hall. All 48 other U.S. states have some form of legalized gambling. In the USA, many southern states restrict gambling significantly, because of the social conservative values in many states. Despite that general statement, all southern states can’t be pegged as anti-gambling.

Alabama bans gambling (even lotteries) in anything but tribal casinos, while Mississippi has dozens of casinos on the Gulf Coast and Tunica County. South Carolina bans most forms of gambling, while Florida allows expanded gambling for the Seminole Tribe and even 8 counties throughout the state. Texas bans all but lottery betting and horse racing, while its neighbors, Oklahoma and Louisiana, allow casino betting; Texans flock to those casinos.

Types of Gambling

Readers might be wondering about the types of gambling that takes place inside the United States. Below is a glossary list of the betting opportunities Americans have, along with a quick description of each form of gambling. We provide revenue data for each type below.

  • Commercial Casinos: Owned by private companies and publicly-traded companies alike. Commercial casinos can be land-based casinos, riverboat casinos, airport casinos, racetrack-casinos (racinos), or casino cruises. Many have Class III or Las Vegs-style slot machines, while others use Class II Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) or Video Gambling Terminals (VGTs).
  • Tribal Casinos: Owned by Native American tribal gaming authorities and based on Indian reservation lands. A landmark 1986 US Supreme Court case (Cabazon v. California) stated Native American reservations are sovereign lands (and thus able to house casinos) if they were recognized by the US Department of the Interior’s Indian Affairs Bureau by 1934 or before. The Cabazon case led to the US Congress passing the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which says Indian tribes which reach a gaming compact with the states they are inside can have casino gambling with Class II slot machines. States can tax tribal casinos for the cost of regulation but can tax more, if the state gives special concessions like statewide monopolies on certain gaming types.
  • Card Rooms: Card rooms can exist inside or outside a land-based casino. Many Las Vegas Strip casinos and Atlantic City have their own poker rooms. In certain states, commercial card rooms or poker clubs exist. The Bicycle Club, Hollywood Park Casino, and Cameo Club in Los Angeles are a few examples of private card rooms. Tribal casinos like WinStar World Casino, Choctaw Casino, Mohegan Sun, and Foxwoods have poker rooms.
  • Charitable Games: Charitable gaming takes many forms. In most places, charitable gaming organizations host bingo nights, but other forms of gambling are allowed. Not-for-profit charitable gaming organizations sometimes host Las Vegas Nights (Millionaire Clubs), raffles, bell jar competitions, pickle card contests, and pull-tab contests. Pickle cards and pull-tab tickets are similar in many ways to a lottery scratch-card. Bell Jar gaming is a kind of raffle.
  • Bingo: Bingo is the most popular and widespread form of charitable gaming. Church groups, veterans’ groups, police and firefighter organizations, medical research groups, and civic organizations all host bingo nights. Organized bingo nights might be found in a dedicated bingo hall, a community center, or a VFW outpost; online bingo has become widely popular as well.
  • Lotteries: State lotteries have existed since the early days of the United States. During the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress funded the war partly with lottery betting. In the latter half of the 20th century, many US states enacted state lotteries to produce public school funding and scholarship funding. Since the 1980s, the multistate lottery associations, Powerball and Mega Millions, have grown to include 44 US states apiece. State lotteries also sell scratch-cards, the best revenue producer.
  • Sportsbooks: Legal sportsbooks are found in land-based casinos in Las Vegas. For the past 25 years, sports lotteries are legal in Delaware, Oregon, and Montana. After the US Supreme Court struck down the PASPA federal ban on sports betting in the 46 other US states, any US state can legalize sportsbooks. Delaware and New Jersey plan to open sportsbooks in the coming weeks, while 5 other US states have sportsbook legalization bills in committee. Lawmakers in 13 other US states are discussing the legalization of sports betting.
  • Horse Racing: Horse racing has been legal in many US states for generations because betting on horses is considered a less dangerous form of gambling — and one wealthier Americans enjoy. Horse racing, harness racing, and greyhound racing involve pari-mutuel wagering, in which one bettor’s win means other bettors lose. The horse bettor competes against other bettors and not the racebook, though the bookmaker sets the odds based on betting volume for each horse. Off-track betting facilities now exist, with simulcast horse races and betting on historical horse races. Because the horse betting industry has struggled, many states now allow slot machine gambling at horse tracks.
  • Online Casinos: Online casinos, poker sites, and sportsbooks were a huge industry in the USA until 2006 when the US Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. The UIGEA banned all forms of Internet gambling which were banned for interstate telephone lines under the 1961 Wire Act. From 2007 to 2011, this meant casino sites, online cardrooms, and bookmaker sites. A 2011 US Department of Justice opinion reversed the DOJ’s stance on online casinos and poker sites, so four US states now have legal online casinos and poker sites: New Jersey, Delaware, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. New York, California, and others might follow suit eventually.
  • Smartphone Betting: In most parts of the United States, mobile casino and poker sites are banned or unregulated. Now that sportsbooks are legal, live/in-play smartphone betting apps could become legal. Tom King of the Readyfire smartphone trivia apps says legal US sports betting will transform Android and iOS gaming apps in America.

Other Types of Wagering: Other forms of gambling takes place in the United States. 50 million Americans bet on Super Bowl office pools and March Madness brackets each year. Though it’s illegal, so many people engage in office betting that authorities look the other way in most cases. Fantasy football and fantasy baseball leagues involve small season-long wagers. In over a dozen US states, fantasy sports have been legalized, but in many other states, fantasy sports betting is allowed to happen. Some argue that daily fantasy sports gaming sites like FanDuel and DraftKings are sports wagering, but they exist in a gray area. Over a dozen US states have legalized DFS sites. Jai Alai is a legal form of sports betting in Connecticut and Florida.