Gallup Poll Shows Record Levels of Gambling Acceptance in US

  • Polling figures show that 71% of Americans see gambling as a “morally acceptable” activity
  • Last year's figure was 68%, while the previous record was 69% in 2018
  • The number of people who consider gambling to be “morally wrong” fell from 31% to 27%
woman playing a slot machine
In a new Gallup poll, 71% of Americans consider gambling to be “morally acceptable,” beating 2018’s record of 69%. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

New high water mark

New polling figures show that a record 71% of Americans see gambling as being a “morally acceptable” activity. 

gambling was rated the fifth-highest “morally acceptable” behavior

The annual Gallup poll looks at the American views on numerous activities. In this latest survey, gambling was rated the fifth-highest “morally acceptable” behavior behind birth control, divorce, alcohol consumption, and premarital sex. 

The 2020 poll was a slight improvement over last year’s figure, which had gambling at 68% acceptability. The previous high was 69% in 2018. The low point of acceptance among Americans came in 2009 when just 58% of respondents thought gambling was okay. The number of people in the 2020 poll who view gambling as being “morally wrong” also dropped from 31% down to a record low of 27%. 

Differing political views

Across most demographics, gambling acceptance levels were similar. People with varying political views, however, differed on their opinions of gambling. Only 61% of people who viewed themselves as being politically conservative were accepting of gambling, compared to 78% of those who self-described as liberal. Of those who said gambling is morally wrong, just 1% were liberals, 23% were moderates, and 36% were conservatives. 

one of just two activities in the poll that received significant bipartisan support

In terms of party affiliation, the numbers were a bit more even, with 76% of Democrats and 70% of Republicans seeing gambling as acceptable. Gambling was one of just two activities in the poll that received significant bipartisan support. 

Males were slightly more likely to approve of gambling (72%) compared to females (69%), while 75% of college graduates believe gambling is just fine. 

Gambling expansion in the US

As gambling becomes more and more available across the United States, levels of gambling acceptance are also rising. In May 2018, the US Supreme Court overturned the federal ban on sports betting. There are now 18 states with active sportsbooks.

Tax revenue from gambling is used to help fund educational and other government programs on both the state and local levels. Legalizing gambling also shifts money from black market operators to licensed providers, giving proper protections to gamblers.

Some states have legalized sports betting but have yet to settle on industry rules. Louisiana lawmakers have approved sports betting, but it is now up to the voters of the state to decide via a referendum in November. Online casino games have become more prevalent in recent years, but not nearly to the same extent as sports betting.