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Gambling rates among poor people

Why do the poor gamble much more than others? Multiple studies show, including from Florida Family Policy Council as well as University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions (RIA), that very low income households have an almost 100% higher rate of gambling than the general population. They tend to use the lotto much more, go to casinos a little more frequently, and wager money in other ways. The rate of addiction to gambling is also much higher.

This is a major problem facing society. When people gamble who can’t afford to lose any of their hard earned income, this perpetuates the cycle of poverty. If a family is living on under $30,000 per year, which is what many of the “poor” gambles make, every single dollar they have counts. If they foolishly spend money on lotto or another “game”, this could stop them from paying the rent or buying food for their child that month.

Compare that the households with an income over $100,000 per year. The National Gambling Impact Study Commission, which was done in the mid 2010s, shows that households with an income over 100K are also heavy users of casinos. However the commission showed that they do not develop a problem or addiction to gambling. Instead it is a form of entertainment available to them, so they use their discretionary income to gamble.

The University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) shows that gambling rates are 100% higher in areas/neighborhoods with above average poverty levels. That means a lower income area, in which many people live under poverty, they are much more likely to gamble, which of course increases and perpetuates poverty.

Why are the poor gambling more?

So we need to ask again, why is this? Why do families that live check to check, and that meet the guidelines of being poor, turn to gambling? Sadly there is no one reason, which makes it difficult to stop this vicious cycle.

Some of the surveys done by the Florida Family Policy Council show that the poor are hoping to win a ton of money by gambling. They think it is a quick way to riches. These individuals think that by visiting a casino they may make a few quick bucks and gain financial stability. Many lack financial education and were never taught about money as a kid.

Addiction is also a problem that is leading to these increased rates. The University at Buffalo Research Institute shows the gambling addiction rate of the poor is almost double of the general population. This addiction in all forms, including gambling or drugs. So they continue to gamble because they literally can’t stop.

Almost 20% of families also say they are desperate. They do not think they will get rich by gambling. But rather these low income families think they can make just a few dollars at the casino or by gambling. They think those few extra bucks can be used to pay the bills for that month. They are looking for “quick” fixes, whether it is gambling, crime, prostitution, etc. The reasons for that…for poverty and desperation are of course very hard to solve. If anyone knew the causes or solutions then of course it would not exist.

Instead, these working poor families should turn to some of the resources available out there from there government or charities. There are other sources of assistance, other than the “dream” of winning some money gambling. When someone is desperate, gambling is a bad solution. Instead, they should apply for financial assistance.

Role models are also cited by the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions (RIA). When someone from a low income neighborhood sees no positive examples of success, no role models, or when they have no access to financial classes, they turn to gambling as they see others do it. So some of the reasons are in effect “peer pressure”. They gamble because they know no differently.

So there are no clear cut reasons why poor people are gambling. It is often more than one reason for this 100% + increase in overall gambling rates. But the bottom line is this is terrible for them, and bad for society, as when someone who is struggling to pay the bills and save money gambles, it leads to just more hardship.


Jon McNamara is the CEO of needhelppayingbills.com, a company that he started in 2008 and that specializes in helping low income families as well as those who are in a financial hardship. He also found NHPB LLC, a company committed to helping the less fortunate. Jon and his team also provide free financial advice to help people learn about as well as manage their money. Every piece of content on this website has been reviewed by him before publishing and many of the articles he has personally written. Jon is the leading author for needhelppayingbils.

One thought on “Gambling rates among poor people

  • February 15, 2019 at 4:25 am

    My husband has a gambling addiction. Now we need some help with my rent and I need to know where I can go to that may be able to help just for this month. Next month I start a new job and will be able to help my husband with paying it if he does not gamble the money away. I want to leave him,
    Thank you for the information,


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