NCPG Survey Has A Few Surprises About The Gambling Habits Of US Bettors

Written By Steve Ruddock on March 29, 2019 - Last Updated on March 28, 2019

New research on the prevalence of gambling in the United States was recently made available by the National Council on Problem Gambling.

The NGAGE (National Survey on Gambling Attitudes and Gambling Experience) study includes national findings as well as findings for each US state. The NCPG conducted the research with the help of Ipsos, a global market research firm.

About the NGAGE study

A total of 3,000 surveys were collected from Nov. 8-29, 2018, for the national survey. According to the NCPG, the bulk of the responses came from online sources.

NCPG and Ipsos also supplemented its national survey with state data. The reason for this supplemental “boosting” was to make sure each state had a representative sample size. The end result was state-level survey numbers between 379 and 501.

The survey questions focused on general gambling but also delved into the specific topic of sports betting and daily fantasy sports.

NGAGE general gambling findings

The topline takeaway from the survey is that 73 percent of respondents gambled in the last year.

The chart below shows what respondents gambled on.

Several interesting conclusions can be drawn from that data set:

  • The most common forms of gambling are also the most widespread, and historically the cheapest: lottery and raffle tickets.
  • There are almost as many DFS players as sports bettors.
  • Only 15 percent of the population gambles online.

However, it’s important to note that online gambling percentages vary by state.

Not surprisingly, the percentage of online gamblers in New Jersey (which has had legal online gambling since 2013) is well above the national average: 26 percent.

But availability doesn’t seem to be the only determinate.

The other online gambling states, Nevada and Delaware, are right around the national average.

  • Nevada: 17 percent
  • Delaware: 15 percent

There are also states devoid of legal online gambling that have rates of 20 percent more:

  • New York: 25 percent
  • California: 20 percent

Similarly, Washington, which has the strictest online gambling laws in the country, had an online gambling rate of 12 percent. That’s well below the national average, but not by much.

The takeaway from the online gambling rates is simple: A lack of a legal option isn’t keeping people from gambling and more importantly, prohibitions don’t seem to be working.

Attitudes toward gambling are improving

Only 13 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “gambling is immoral.” A majority, 57 percent, disagreed with the statement. That’s a shift from previous polls and surveys.

That shift in attitude can also be seen in the number of current legislative efforts to expand gambling in states across the country, as well as, the general lack of pushback these efforts are receiving compared to past gambling expansion efforts.

But problem gambling treatment needs to be improved

The general public seems nonplussed when it comes to treatment for problem gambling.

Only 38 percent of respondents felt that services to treat compulsive gambling were available in their community. Fifteen percent disagreed, with a plurality of respondents (47 percent) neutral on the question.

More alarming, 63 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “the gambling industry should do more to help with problem gambling.” Only 10 percent disagreed.

And finally, 43 percent of respondents agreed that “the government should do more to help people with a gambling addiction,” with 22 percent disagreeing with that statement.

About 10 percent of people don’t understand how gambling works

Some of the more head-scratching findings from the survey had to do with the mechanics of gambling.

Specifically, it seems that about 10 percent of the population is quite deluded about gambling.

In fact, 10-11 percent of respondents agreed with the following statements:

  • Gambling is a good way to make money.
  • If I gamble more often, it will help me to win more than I lose.
  • My chances of winning get better after I have lost.

What NGAGE has to say about sports betting and DFS

Sports betting

Considering the rise of sports betting in New Jersey, the sports betting and DFS specific questions offer a couple of insights into player habits.

Sports bettors were asked to list the sports they’ve gambled on during the previous 12 months, and the NCPG numbers tell a similar story to the data released by Kambi earlier this year.

Specifically, the big four — baseball, basketball, hockey, and football — make up the majority of sports bets. But, there is a lot of interest in a couple of other sports, such as soccer, combat sports, and tennis.

Another interesting data point is that 63 percent of sports bettors wager online. That means sports bettors are far more likely to gamble online (i.e., one of the 13 NJ sportsbook apps) than virtually any other segment of the gambling population.

With only a few states offering legal online sports betting, that’s clear evidence of a thriving black market. It’s also a compelling argument to include online components in sports betting bills.


The NGAGE survey contains one DFS data point: What type of fantasy sports do people wager on?

According to the results:

  • 34 percent of fantasy sports players exclusively play DFS.
  • 44 percent exclusively participate in season-long fantasy leagues.
  • 22 percent dabble in both.

The results imply there’s less crossover between season-long and DFS than would be expected.

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Steve Ruddock

Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.

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