NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Who Are The High Rollers?

September 8, 1999

Most Americans who gamble are not addicted to wagering. The "problem gambler" segment amounts to about 2.5 percent of all adults, estimates the National Opinion Research Center.

But the evidence is overwhelming that gambling is most popular among people with little education and people who make little money.

State lotteries have soared in popularity since New Hampshire launched the first lottery in the nation in 1964. The percentage of people who play them has more than doubled since 1975. Per- head spending has grown fourfold since 1973 -- to $150 in 1997.

According to data from the National Survey on Gambling, the National Opinion Research Center, and Charles Clotfelter and Philip Cook of Duke University:

  • College graduates bet an average of $178 a year on state lotteries, while those with some college wager $210.
  • High school graduates, on the other hand, risk an average of $409 a year -- and those lacking a high school diploma shell out $700 each to state lotteries annually.
  • People making over $100,000 a year bet on average only $225, while those in the $50,000 to $99,999 category engage in $382 worth of gaming a year.
  • But those earning $25,000 to $49,999 risk $569 -- while low-earners in the $10,000 to $24,999 category plunk down an average of $597 a year.

In all states but Florida and Georgia, lotteries raise less than 3 percent of state revenues. In those states, they raise 3 percent and 4 percent of funds, respectively.

Source: Claire Mencke, "Gambling Is Soaring in America," Investor's Business Daily, September 8, 1999.


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