The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) commissioned the National Survey on Gambling Attitudes and Gambling Experiences 2.0 (NGAGE) to measure changes in national gambling attitudes and experiences from the original baseline taken in 2018. NGAGE 2.0 was conducted in April 2021 when legal sports betting was available in 21 states.
1. The number of people displaying risky gambling behavior increased from 2018 to 2021. The
number replying that they experienced at least one of four potentially problematic behaviors “many
times” rose from 7 percent in 2018 to 11 percent in 2021, an increase of approximately eight million people.
2. The greatest predictors of risk identified in this study include participation in many
different gambling activities, agreeing that gambling is a good way to make money, participation in fantasy sports or traditional sports betting, frequently trading investments,
and being under the age of 45. Those gambling on 10 or more activities were three
times more likely to show signs of problematic behavior than the average gambler and seven
times more likely than those gambling on between one and six activities.
3. Young adults continue to be at a high risk of gambling problems. One-quarter of those under
the age of 35 reported frequently experiencing at least one problematic play behavior (of the
four assessed in this study) compared to 3 percent of those 55 or older. And while problematic
play remained constant for those 45 and older between the 2018 and 2021 surveys, it increased
substantially for those under 45.
4. Gambling remains a popular American pastime. Despite the pandemic-related disruptions
in the gambling industry during 2020 and 2021, overall gambling participation showed no
significant change from 2018 (73%) to 2021 (71%).
5. The status of sports betting legalization in a state appears to have made little difference on
sports gambling participation in that state. The percentage of adults making sports wagers
was virtually identical between those living in states where it was legal (25%) and those residing
in states where it was not (26%). And among those who did bet on sports, the frequency of play,
types of bets made, and size of bets showed few major differences. However, in many states
legalized sports betting was still very new, and the impacts of widespread legalization may well
take more time to become apparent.
6. Online wagering grew at a rapid rate. While online wagering was legalized in only a few
states (mostly in limited forms), online gambling participation grew from 15 percent of the adult
population in 2018 to 25 percent of the population in 2021, meaning that 25 million more
people were gambling online in 2021 than were three years earlier.
7. Some forms of gambling showed significant growth. Lotteries, casino attendance, gaming
machines, and card games showed little change, while sports betting, fantasy sports betting,
online wagering, betting on parimutuel racing, roulette, and craps experienced increases in
annual participation of 5 percent or more. The only form of gambling that showed a significant
decline in participation was raffles, which declined from 41 percent to 36 percent.
8. The COVID-19 pandemic had a major effect on gambling behavior. Almost half of the
respondents reported gambling less during the pandemic while 18 percent reported gambling
more and the remaining 36 percent gambling the same. Increases in gambling were found to
be strongly associated with problematic play and were concentrated heavily in young adults, the
portion of the population historically most prone to problematic gambling behavior.
9. People who traded investments frequently also gambled frequently with high levels of
problematic play. More than two-thirds of those trading weekly or more also reported needing
to gamble more for the same feeling of excitement, lying to hide their gambling, and feeling
restless or irritable when trying to quit or cut down on their gambling.
10. A large share of the population continues to misunderstand or stigmatize problem
gambling. A majority continue to attribute gambling problems at least in part to moral weakness
and/or lack of willpower. Along with almost all other measures of public opinion and beliefs on
gambling, these numbers are virtually unchanged from 2018.
For more information about NCPG and the full range of programs and services in Advocacy, Awareness and Assistance in problem gambling and responsible gambling, please visit www.ncpgambling.org. NCPG is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization funded by members and donors. NCPG receives no federal funding.