Nevada ranks as the #1 state in the United States in problem gambling, according to a study done by WalletHub. The personal finance site conducted research on 20 broad categories which ranged from gambling-related arrests to the number of casinos.

The top five states in the percentage of problem gamblers are Nevada, South Dakota, Montana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. The bottom fives states are Utah, Florida, Alaska, Nebraska, and Alabama. Readers can see the full report here.

The report contains several oddities. For instance, Hawaii is most like Utah, because both states have a 100% ban on gambling of any kind. Hawaii also has the most geographic isolation, making it harder for residents to gamble in other states. Yet Hawaiians are not in the Top 5 among the least addicted gamblers.

All that activity must take place in an underground gambling environment. This site reported on a number of illegal Hawaiian gambling rings over the years. At least one Hawaii bookie used an illegal online sportsbook to handle those bets.

Proximity to Gambling Types

Utah, on the other hand, is adjacent to Nevada. It has a comprehensive ban on gambling, but its residents are closer in proximity to Las Vegas than most Americans. Therefore, one would expect to see a heightened amount of problem gambling. That doesn’t appear to be the case, perhaps because the state’s high percentage of Mormons. Practicing Mormons abstain from alcohol, caffeine drinks, and gambling.

Nevada might seem like a bastion of gambling, but it is one of the few US states without one bastion of problem gambling: lottery betting. Nevada bans all lottery betting, so casinos face less competition. Lottery bettors who wager on twice-weekly drawings are not a major source of problem gambling, but those who buy scratch card games are.

Gambling Study’s 20 Categories

WalletHub said Nevada ranked first thanks to “gambling friendliness” catogories, such as availability and legality of gaming types. At first flush, one might doubt the results of a study using such metrics, but “number of gambling addicts” was one category.

The study was on a percentage basis. Since Nevada has one of the smallest state populations, the number of problem gamblers falls far short of states like California, Texas, and New York in the sheer number of problem gamblers.

Percentage of Adults with Gambling Disorders

When looking at the percentage of adults with gambling disorders, Nevada comes in at #5. Mississippi and Minnesota tie for first overall, while Kansas and New Jersey tie for 3rd overall. The presence of Minnesota and Kansas on the list are astounding, because neither is particularly well known for their gambling venues.

On the other hand, Michigan has the lowest percentage of adults with gambling disorders. The remaining states are Kentucky, Florida, and Connecticut tied at 47th and New York and New Mexico tied at 43rd.

Nevada Leads in Several Categories

Nevada is first in the number of gaming machines per 1,000 residents. It has 72.82 gaming machines per 1000 people. Nevada also leads the country in casino revenue per capita at $5,218.

The Silver State tied with Oklahoma and South Dakota in the number of casinos per capita. Mississippi comes in second in commercial casino revenue per capita, though its venues earn between one-fifth and one-sixth ($920) what Nevada casinos do.

Nevada is only 25th in the number of gambling-related arrests. People who’ve visited the Las Vegas Strip know Metropolitan Police Department patrol the Strip all hours of the day and night, which serves as a deterrent.

Nevada leads in per capita Gamblers Anonymous meeting with 5.77. Despite the high number of gambling addicts, Nevada is way down the chart in terms of gambling counselors (33rd). It also does not have a self-exclusion list, a tool to help problem gamblers.

California Leads in Counselors

Dr. Nancy A. Piotrowski, a professor of addiction psychology at Capella University, said states like Nevada should follow California’s lead on counseling. Piotrowski said, “I hope that any state seeking to increase gaming options consider the regulatory practices and related model treatment program the state of California has created.”

“It [California] represents a more responsible approach to taking care of the cons side of the balance sheet.”

Lottery Betting Per State

The list of states with the most lottery betting per capita is much different than the rest of the list. The top five states for the highest lottery sales per capita are Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Delaware, Maryland, and West Virginia. Rhode Island has $1,047 lottery sales per capita.

Dr. Kevin Montes, an associate professor at California State University-Dominguez Hills, suggested a novel way to administer lottery sales. Dr. Montes said, instead of land-based vendors, states should move to automated lottery sales and online lottery tickets only.

The reason is online lotto sales would allow states to restrict the amount of money people can bet. Montes added, “I think this approach would be a good first step to reduce the negative impact state lotteries have on individuals who are least capable financially to gamble while as allowing all individuals (who are eligible) to engage in this recreational activity.”

That approach makes good sense from the standpoint of stopping excess lotto sales. Still, it isn’t like to happen anytime soon. Convenience stores around the state use the lottery ticket sales to bolster their small businesses. State lawmakers would prefer to give those vendors added revenues, and those venues likely would lobby the state.

Male v. Female Problem Gambling

Though female gambling addicts are becoming more common, male problem gamblers remain a much bigger societal problem. Male gambling addicts tend to have an average debt (in states) between $55,000 and $90,000. Female gambling addicts’ average debt remains closer to $15,000 in most states.

Neither is good, but male gamblers tend to run up a gambling debt approaching 5 times the amount females do.

About the Author
April Bergman avatar
April Bergman

April Bergman was a longtime news blogger for BOC. She wrote gaming news posts from January 2013 until September 2018. April also wrote slot reviews, strategy articles, and online casino reviews for the site.

April Bergman began in the online gaming industry in August 2010. From 2010 to 2013, she managed evergreen content for several top online casino. Her duties included developing and maintaining multiple websites in the gaming space. When not writing about online gambling, April loves horse racing, travel, photography, and gardening. She's began in the business as a devoted poker players and spent several years as a card game editor on the now-defunct DMOZ. These days, she lives with her husband and two children in the Toronto metropolitan area.

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April Bergman was a longtime news blogger for BOC. She wrote gaming news posts from January 2013 until September 2018. April also wrote slot reviews, strategy articles, and online casino reviews for the site.

April Bergman began in the online gaming industry in August 2010. From 2010 to 2013, she managed evergreen content for several top online casino. Her duties included developing and maintaining multiple websites in the gaming space. When not writing about online gambling, April loves horse racing, travel, photography, and gardening. She's began in the business as a devoted poker players and spent several years as a card game editor on the now-defunct DMOZ. These days, she lives with her husband and two children in the Toronto metropolitan area.

READ MORE
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