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Gallup: Lotteries losing, casinos gaining interest

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The percentage of Americans who play the lottery has dropped significantly in recent years while the percentage who visit casinos has risen slightly, a Gallup poll shows.

The poll suggests that for the first time since Gallup began asking the question, a majority of Americans aren’t playing the lottery.

Specifically, 49 percent of Americans say they haven’t bought a lottery ticket in the past year, while 51 percent say they have. The data reflects an 8-percentage point swing from 1999, when 57 percent of Americans said they had played the lottery and 43 percent said they hadn’t. In 1996, 57 percent of those polled said they had played the lottery; in 1992 it was 56 percent.

But the news isn’t all good for gambling foes.

Thirty percent of Americans say they have visited a casino within the past year — an increase from 1996 when it was 27 percent and from 1992 when it was 21 percent. Seventy percent of those polled say they have not visited a casino.

With the exception of casino-playing, participation in every form of gambling is down.

“Gallup data suggest Americans are less likely to participate in most forms of gambling than they were in 1989, when most of these items were first asked,” Gallup’s Jeffrey M. Jones wrote in an online article March 24, when the findings were released. “The primary exception is visiting casinos … Since 1989, casinos have been built in several local communities as a way to raise revenue.”

Lotteries are the most common form of everyday gambling, followed by casinos and video poker machines.

Combining all forms of gambling, including participation in NCAA basketball tournament-type office pools, Gallup estimates that 66 percent of Americans have gambled in some form in the past 12 months.

Among the poll’s findings (all pertaining to gambling within the past year):

— Men are more likely to gamble. Seventy-five percent of men say they have gambled in the past 12 months compared to 57 percent of women.

— Churchgoers are less likely to gamble. Seventy-four percent of those who seldom or never attend church say they’ve gambled in the past year, compared to 52 percent of those who attend church weekly.

— Fourteen percent of Americans say they’ve played video poker machines — a decrease from 20 percent in 1999.

— Ten percent say they’ve bet on pro sports, a decrease from 1999 when it was 13 percent. Six percent say they’ve bet on college sports, which is a decrease of 3 percentage points from the 1999 poll.

— Fifteen percent say they’ve participated in an office pool, a decrease from 25 percent in 1999.

— Five percent say they’ve played bingo for money (a drop from 11 percent in 1999) and 4 percent say they’ve bet on a horse race (a decrease from 6 percent in 1996, when the question was last asked).

— Only 6 percent say they sometimes gamble too much or that gambling is a source of problems within their family.

Writing in his Crosswalk.com commentary March 4, R. Albert Mohler Jr. argued that the Christian church must speak out against gambling.

“The Bible is clear on this issue,” Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote. “The entire enterprise of gambling is opposed to the moral worldview revealed in God’s Word. The basic impulse behind gambling is greed — a basic sin that is the father of many other evils. Greed, covetousness, and avarice are repeatedly addressed by Scripture — always presented as a sin against God, and often accompanied by a graphic warning of the destruction which is greed’s result. The burning desire for earthly riches leads to frustration and spiritual death.”

Lotteries, he said, “take advantage” of the states’ “most gullible citizens, while touting benefits the gambling revenues supposedly make possible.”

The poll of 1,001 adults was conducted Dec. 11-14.

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust