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Gambling exists in every state, even Hawaii and Utah, where gambling is prohibited by law. But not all gamblers are the same. “Recreational” or “social” gamblers, for instance, buy the occasional lottery ticket, take the rare casino trip or bet small stakes in fantasy sports. But they also are mentally able to quit at any point and prevent catastrophic financial loss.

But when the business or pleasure gets out of control, gambling becomes a real medical condition. Gambling disorder, as it’s known, affects about 1-3 percent of all U.S. adults. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Gambling can stimulate the brain's reward system much like drugs such as alcohol can, leading to addiction.”

That addiction can lead to serious economic consequences. For example, U.S. consumers experience over $100 billion per year in total gambling losses. Individually, a male gambling addict accumulates an average debt of between $55,000 and $90,000 whereas a female averages $15,000. Most cannot afford to pay back what they owe. As a result, gambling addicts develop a high tendency to amass even more debt, suffer from other health issues, lose their jobs, strain their relationships or even commit crimes.

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Methodology

In order to determine where gambling addiction is most prevalent and harmful in America, WalletHub compared the 50 states across two key dimensions, “Gambling-Friendliness” and “Gambling Problem & Treatment.”

We evaluated those dimensions using 20 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the highest dependency on gambling.

We then determined each state’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.

Gambling-Friendliness – Total Points: 70

  • Commercial & Tribal Casinos per Capita: Triple Weight (~13.13 Points)
  • Note: “Per capita” considers adults aged 18 years and older. “Commercial casinos” are defined as land-based, riverboat and racetrack casinos.
  • Gaming Machines per 1,000 Residents: Double Weight (~8.75 Points)
  • Note: “Per 1,000 residents” considers adults aged 18 years and older.
  • iGaming Revenues per Capita: Full Weight (~4.38 Points)
  • Note: “Per capita” considers adults aged 18 years and older.
  • Limited-Stakes Gaming Revenues per Capita: Full Weight (~4.38 Points)
  • Note: “Per capita” considers adults aged 18 years and older.
  • Commercial Casinos Revenues per Capita: Double Weight (~8.75 Points)
  • Note: “Per 1,000 residents” considers adults aged 18 years and older.
  • Lottery Sales per Capita: Full Weight (~4.38 Points)
  • Note: “Per capita” considers adults aged 18 years and older.
  • Presence of Retail/Convenience Gaming: Full Weight (~4.38 Points)
  • Note: This metrics measures the presence of slot machines in retail or convenience locations.
  • Presence of Illegal Gambling Operations: Full Weight (~4.38 Points)
  • Legality of Daily Fantasy Sports: Full Weight (~4.38 Points)
  • Legality of Sports Gambling: Full Weight (~4.38 Points)
  • Legality of Horse-Race Gambling: Full Weight (~4.38 Points)
  • Google Search Interest Index for “Gambling”: Full Weight (~4.38 Points)
  • Note: This metric measures Google search interest for the terms “Lottery”, “Casino”, “Slots”, “Blackjack”, “Sport Betting” and “Horse Racing Betting”.

Gambling Problem & Treatment – Total Points: 30

  • Share of Adults Aged 18 Years and Older with Gambling Disorders: Triple Weight (~9.00 Points)
  • Gambling Counselors per Capita: Full Weight (~3.00 Points)
  • Note: “Per 1,000 residents” considers adults aged 18 years and older.
  • “Gamblers Anonymous” Meetings per Capita: Full Weight (~3.00 Points)
  • Note: “Per capita” considers adults aged 18 years and older.
  • Presence of NCPG Affiliation: Half Weight (~1.50 Points)
  • Note: “NCPG” is an acronym for National Council on Problem Gambling.
  • Employee Training on Disordered- & Problem-Gambling Statuses & Regulations: Full Weight (~3.00 Points)
  • Presence of Gambling-Addiction Treatment Programs: Half Weight (~1.50 Points)
  • Statewide Self-Exclusion Statute: Full Weight (~3.00 Points)
  • Note: This binary metric measures the presence or absence of self-exclusion policy in a state.
  • Self-exclusion (or self-banning) is a voluntary process where a person with a gambling concern excludes themselves from areas of specific gambling venues, or online providers.
  • It can provide a concrete tool to help keep you safe from excessive gambling.
  • Gambling-Related Arrests per Capita: Double Weight (~6.00 Points)
  • Note: “Per capita” considers adults aged 18 years and older.

Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, American Gaming Association, RubinBrown, National Council on Problem Gambling, North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Pew Charitable Trusts, Legal Sports Report, Gamboool, Google Ads, Gamblers Anonymous and Virginia Commonwealth University’s Dr. Jay S. Albanese.

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