Understanding the American gambler

Rishad Dsouza
July 29, 2021, 6:17 AM UTC

The United States is home to the highest-valued gambling industry in the world. In 2020, a year in which most industries were hit hard by the pandemic, the gambling market adapted and embraced online mediums of reaching consumers.

But who are the people driving this growth in an already well-established industry? What motivates them to place bets and what are their favorite types of gambling? The launch of YouGov Global Gambling Profiles, a tool that continually gathers data from gamblers in 23 different markets, gives us the ability to answer these questions better than ever before.

Favorite types of gambling in the US market

Americans love the lottery. Although our sample of gamblers specifically excludes those whose only form of gambling is playing the lottery, the activity is still the most popular form of wager – even if its popularity is somewhat less pronounced among younger generations. Overall, almost two in five (37%) plan to play a lottery game in the next 30 days.

Casino betting appears next on the list, with about one in five Americans (21%) saying they will bet in a casino over the same period. This form of gambling is more or less consistent in its popularity among all age groups, except those aged 18 – 24, where it falls to 15%. Online forms of casino and card gambling are also popular, particularly with the 25-34 age bracket. Almost of a quarter of this age group (23%) say they will play an online casino game in the next 30 days. That’s compared to a broader average of 15%.

One-sixth of our regular gamblers also show an inclination towards online slots (17%), while one in seven say they will buy a ticket for a lucky draw in the next 30 days (14%).

But what about sports betting?

It might come as a surprise to some that sports betting doesn’t feature in the top five, but that’s partially because of the fragmented nature of sports-based gambling, which features various formats, which we track separately.

Fantasy sports betting is the sub-category which comes closest to joining the top five. One in eight regular gamblers say they will play fantasy sports for money in the next 30 days (13%).

How high are the stakes?

Global Gambling Profiles also gives users actionable insight into the money placed on various types of gambling each month. Competition in the US seems to be stiff across various categories in each price bracket, with slots tending to win out in some of the higher-stake brackets, but not by much.

The difference is most noticeable in the $100-$500 spend range. One in seven gamblers (14%) say they place between $100-$500 on slots on average per month, leaving behind the other categories – casino games (11%), sports and fantasy sports betting (11%) and bingo (10%). Each of the categories draw monthly bets in the $501 - $ 2000 range from between 6% to 7% of US gamblers.

It will be interesting to see how the gambling market shapes up as the US continues to overcome the pandemic. Will the reopening of public spaces mean that online modes of gambling decline in popularity? YouGov Global Gambling Profiles will be keeping watch.

Methodology: Regular gamblers in this piece are defined as those who have engaged in any form of gambling other than the Lottery in the past 30 days. YouGov Global Gambling Profiles, which includes data from 23 markets, is based on continuously collected data from several sources, rather than from a single limited questionnaire. Data referenced is based on a sample size of between 1,337 to 1,791 US adults. Online interviews were conducted in April 2021.