Survey: 62% of Americans Say They Gambled in the Last 12 Months

Many younger Americans view their gambling and bets as an investment, according to the NerdWallet survey.
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Written by Andrew Marder
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Edited by Arielle O'Shea
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As opportunities for legal gambling expand in the U.S., Americans are spending more money betting on sports, wagering in casinos and betting online, according to a recent revenue report from the American Gaming Association. A new NerdWallet survey finds that 62% of Americans say they gambled in the last 12 months. Of those, about 24% of Gen Z gamblers and 22% of millennial gamblers say gambling is an investment, according to the survey.

The online survey of over 2,000 U.S. adults was conducted by The Harris Poll from Dec. 14-18, 2023, on behalf of NerdWallet. Respondents were asked questions about their gambling activity and beliefs, including sports gambling and whether betting would play a role in their desire to watch the Super Bowl.


  • Americans who gambled in the last 12 months say they wagered an average of $1,027 over that period. Men risked more, averaging $1,294 compared with women's $433. People in Generation Z topped the age charts, wagering $1,885 on average, according to the survey.

  • About 3 in 5 (57%) Americans who've bet on sports in the last 12 months say betting on the game is one of the reasons they would watch the Super Bowl. 

  • Younger gamblers are more likely to say they consider gambling to be an investment. About 1 in 4 (24%) of Gen Z gamblers and a similar percentage (22%) of millennials say gambling is an investment, compared with 10% of Generation X and 3% of baby boom gamblers, according to the survey.

Gambling activity

Younger generations were more likely than older generations to gamble, with 69% of Gen Zers (ages 18-26 in the survey) and 68% of millennials (ages 27-42) saying they participated compared with 58% of Gen Xers (ages 43-58) and 57% of baby boomers (ages 59-77), according to the survey.

Scratch-off lottery tickets were the most common kind of gambling reported. Over a third (37%) of Americans say they played a scratch-off lottery in the last 12 months. Jackpot games like Mega Millions and Powerball came in second, with 26% of Americans saying they bought tickets. Jackpots were the only gambling activity that baby boomers (30%) reported more than Gen Zers (16%) or millennials (24%), the survey found.

Men were more likely to say they had gambled than women, with about two-thirds of men (66%) betting versus 58% of women. That division was especially pronounced among younger Americans in the survey. A full three-quarters (75%) of men between the ages of 18 and 44 say they gambled, while 62% of women of the same age range said they did.

Amount spent gambling

The average gambler says they spent $1,027 over the last 12 months. However, the median amount spent was $120, indicating that the average is skewed by a small number of people wagering much larger amounts. About 1 in 5 (18%) Americans say they spent over $1,000, the survey found.

All these values were higher for men. Men spent an average of $1,294 to women's $433, and men had a median wagered value of $245 to women's $100. A quarter of men (25%) say they spent $1,000 or more gambling compared with 10% of women. Amounts also varied by generation: Gen Zers spent an average of $1,885, for millennials it was $1,064 on average, Gen Xers spent $1,121 on average and it was $429 on average for baby boomers.

“Before gambling, make sure your finances are on track,” says Melissa Lambarena, a personal finance expert and writer at NerdWallet. “If you have a high-interest debt or lack a sufficient emergency fund, you could be setting yourself up to lose financially if you gamble instead of applying extra money to these goals.”

Sports gamblers

In our survey, we asked about betting on sports (not including horse or dog racing) and found that 12% of Americans say they gambled on sports in the last 12 months. Those bettors also are heavily male, with 20% of men saying they bet on sports versus 5% of women.

Sports gamblers also gambled in other ways. For instance, 49% say they also gambled with scratch-off lottery tickets, 43% played jackpot games and 35% played online slots.

Betting on sports is legal in 38 states and Washington, D.C., though some states restrict how people can bet. For instance, in New Mexico, betting is legal through tribal casinos.

The rise in legalized gambling has fueled the industry’s expansion, and through October 2023, year-to-date gross revenue from sports gambling increased almost 51% year over year, according to the American Gaming Association.

Our survey found that sports gamblers spent an average of $1,934 over the previous 12 months, with a median of $300. Almost 1 in 3 (31%) say they spent $1,000 or more on gambling over that period.

Twenty-three percent of sports gamblers say they plan to increase the amount they bet in 2024, compared with 12% of gamblers in general who say the same, according to the survey.

Gambling and finances

When asked in our survey about gambling and personal finances, 48% of gamblers say they regularly review their personal finances. Baby boomers (59%) were more likely than any other generation to have this regular review, compared with 40% of Gen Zers, 42% of millennials and 47% of Gen Xers.

As well, 1 in 5 (20%) gamblers surveyed say they use a stop-loss limit to gambling, which is an approach designed to limit overspending. This method treats the amount available to gamble as a preset limit, and once that money is lost, the betting stops.

Around 1 in 10 (9%) gamblers say they have a separate savings or checking account dedicated to betting — that jumps to 21% of sports gamblers, according to the survey. About a quarter (23%) of gamblers say they often feel like they're scraping by financially.

“Before gambling, review your budget to determine whether you have money available to wager,” Lambarena says. “A realistic view of your finances can help you set a safe limit that won’t leave your finances in the red.”

Gamblers should also take into account the taxes they may owe on winnings when considering their budgets and options.

Younger gamblers are more likely to see betting as investing

In the survey, 14% of gamblers say they consider gambling to be a form of investment. Younger generations were more likely to have this view than older people, with 24% of Gen Z and 22% of millennial gamblers saying they consider gambling an investment, compared with 10% of Gen X and 3% of baby boom gamblers. Around a quarter (26%) of sports gamblers say they think gambling is an investment.

While both involve risk, investing differs from gambling. When you invest, you’re purchasing a stake in an asset that has value in an effort to generate a profit. But gambling doesn’t involve taking ownership of anything with value — instead, bettors are predicting the outcome of an event.

Although some people may use the word "betting" when talking about investing, the approaches to betting and investing are different. Instead of trying to time the market and earn large, immediate returns, approaches like dollar-cost averaging let you worry less about how a stock is doing right this minute and focus more on building wealth over time.

If, instead of wagering $1,000 per year, a person were to save that same $1,000 every year for five years, they would have $5,000 before inflation. If they were to invest it and earn the stock market's historical annual return of around 7% after inflation, they would have about $5,750.

Gambling and the Super Bowl

According to the American Gaming Association, estimates of the amount wagered on the Super Bowl have been rising sharply in the past few years as more states allow sports gambling.

While the survey found that 15% of Americans say betting on the 2024 Super Bowl is one of the reasons they're interested in watching, that jumps to 57% of those who've bet on sports in the last 12 months. For those gamblers, betting on the game jumps into third place as the most-cited reason — behind the teams playing (65% of sports gamblers) and socializing with friends (60%).

Other reasons why Americans plan to tune in to the game

In our survey, we also asked Americans about other reasons they would watch the Super Bowl on Feb. 11. Respondents could give multiple answers. At the top, 44% said they would watch because of the teams playing. That was followed closely by 40% who say they'll watch to socialize with friends. Socializing was more common among younger generations. About half (52%) of Gen Zers and 46% of millennials said they were interested in socializing compared with 37% of Gen Xers and 32% of baby boomers.

More than a third of Americans (38%) say the commercials are a reason they watch, while 5% say commercials are the only thing they care about. Similarly, 34% say the halftime performer is among their reasons for watching, but just 4% cite that as the only reason, according to the survey.

Getting help for problem gambling

While gambling can be done in a smart and safe way, there are also dangers to watch out for. Anyone who thinks they may be struggling with an addiction should contact the National Problem Gambling Helpline, run by the National Council on Problem Gambling. The phone number for guidance and help is 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537).


This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll on behalf of NerdWallet from Dec. 14-18, 2023, among 2,061 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within +/- 2.7 percentage points using a 95% confidence level. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, contact [email protected].


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