Gaming & consoles

Casino Attitudes in the US

Casino Attitudes

Casinos occupy a fascinating place within American society. On the one hand, the country is home to such global gambling hotspots as Las Vegas and Atlantic City, where the casino is king.

On the other, casino gaming has actually been quite strictly prohibited in most parts of the US until fairly recently. Federal law imposed a nationwide ban outside of certain strict contexts, but this was struck down by the Supreme Court a few years ago and the legal status of gambling is now a decision for individual states.

All of this suggests that it is a country with a somewhat schizophrenic attitude to gambling. There is a bit of truth in that, which is rooted in the role of religion in the history of the US, but there are also signs that it is starting to change.

US Casino Centers

US Casino Centers

The two main centers of casino in the US have always been Las Vegas in Nevada and Atlantic City in New Jersey. Until the changes in the law, they were among the few places where Americans could go if they wanted to legally play the games on offer at casinos.

They have also always been incredibly lucrative for the economies of the two states. A growing awareness of the economic benefits that legal gambling can bring was behind the moves to strike down the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act that imposed a nationwide federal ban. 

Those efforts bore fruit six years ago and now both land-based and online gambling is legal across many of the states. That is bringing about a change in attitudes.

Close to one out of every 10 Americans now considers gaming at casinos to be okay, while 41% of them have been to a casino themselves. Over one quarter have done so within the past 12 months.

When it comes to online versus offline gambling, the legal situation is complicated and varies from state to state. Unsurprisingly, New Jersey – home to the big Atlantic City casinos – was one of the first to legalize online gaming and lists the internet casinos with the best no-deposit bonuses in that state.

Nevada is also among those that have legalized online casinos. What we can conclude from this is that the longtime presence of Las Vegas and Atlantic City casinos led to the residents of those states developing more liberal attitudes to the activity.

Feelings about casinos have been changing in other parts of the US in the past few years too though. A report from six years ago – the same year that the legislation changed – found that 69% of Americans were fine with casinos. That was a rise of 4% on the year before, showing a gradual shift, and that process has continued in the years since.

Casinos in Popular Culture

When looking at the opinions that people across the country have about casino gambling, we must also consider the impact of pop culture. Casinos and gambling have frequently featured as a subject matter for movies, television shows and pop songs.

Ever since the development of Las Vegas during the 1920s and 1930s, casinos have inspired US creators. They were made iconic in the 1960s by the Rat Pack and Elvis Presley, with songs such as ‘Viva Las Vegas’ and movies like Ocean’s Eleven.

That film even got a glossy, all-star remake at the turn of the century, showing that casinos continue to have real allure for pop culture creators. So did this help to increase levels of acceptance among people living in the US? In truth, it is hard to say definitively.

The likelihood is that ordinary Americans were never as hostile to casino gambling as they might have been presented as being. Going back to the early 1990s, polls conducted show that a majority considered it to be perfectly fine – which suggests that the law has been slow to change in response to public attitudes.

It may be that the centrality of Las Vegas in particular to popular culture and the growing importance of that culture since the 1960s has been part of the reason for that. Frank Sinatra and Elvis are both legendary figures and are closely associated with casino gaming, while Ocean’s Eleven was a box office blockbuster that linked Vegas and casinos to glamour and cool.

Throw in the real benefits to the economies of the different states from legalizing land-based or digital casinos and the shift in attitudes starts to seem inevitable. Much of the objection came from strongly religious parts of the country, with Mormons in particular continuing to oppose it. Therefore the fact that it remains illegal in Utah is not surprising.

Attitudes to casinos in the US are liberalizing but were never as uniformly conservative as many believed. 

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