The United States are home to over 1500 casinos—more than any other country in the world, in fact–and those gambling dens generate over $71 billion in revenue per year. The casino gambling business continues to grow throughout the country, too. Critics are quick to dismiss the casino industry as being harmful to consumers, but these businesses employ at least half a million people.
But the USA is also a patchwork quilt of gambling laws that vary from state to state. Most states have at least one casino now, but there are still some holdouts where there is no legal casino in which to gamble.
Even the states that are home to the most casinos—Nevada, Oklahoma, Colorado, and California—have dozens of sometimes strange laws on the books regulating the operation of these casinos. For example, Oklahoma is allowed to host casino games that use playing cards, but games with spinning wheels or dice are illegal. (That law is about to change, but you should see the contortions Oklahoma casinos go through to offer roulette and craps powered by decks of cards.)
In the state of Colorado, the most you’re allowed to bet in a casino is $100 at a time.
The rest of this posts looks at the various situations related to casinos by state. I think you’ll find these facts and statistics of interest.
1- The State with the Most Casinos Is Nevada
This might seem obvious, as Nevada is home to Las Vegas, the former gambling capital of the world. It’s also home to Reno, which is also known as a casino destination. Nevada has 334 casinos operating within its borders.
But you’d be surprised as some of Nevada’s closest competitors. I live and work in Texas, which is right on the border of Oklahoma, a state which is fast becoming a gambling mecca in its own right. Oklahoma now has 134 casinos operating there, too. That’s about a third of the number of casinos as Nevada, but the latter has been opening casinos since 1931. Oklahoma just got into the business in 2004.
According to WorldAtlas.com, these are the 10 states with the most casinos, in order:
- 1. Nevada – 334
- 2. Oklahoma – 134
- 3. California – 62
- 4. Colorado – 40
- 5. South Dakota – 39
- 6. Florida – 35
- 7. Mississippi – 35
- 8. Arizona – 34
- 9. Washington – 32
- 10. Michigan – 30
I’m not sure how long these numbers will remain accurate, of course. The industry continues to grow throughout the United States.
2- The Best Casino in the United States Is the Mohegan Sun
USA Today runs a website called “10 Best.” They rank various businesses and products by category, and their ranking of casinos in the USA might be definitive, as it’s based on a readers’ poll. The #1 casino in their poll is the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.
Along with Foxwoods, the Mohegan Sun is one of just 2 casino resorts in the state. It’s made up of 3 casinos:
- 1. Casino of the Earth
- 2. Casino of the Wind
- 3. Casino of the Sky
Between the 3 casinos, Mohegan Sun is host to over 5000 gambling machines and over 275 tables games. They also have a poker room with over 42 tables and a race book. If you enjoy Asian style gambling, they have a separate area for that which offers games like baccarat, pai gow poker, and sic bo.
The rest of 10Best’s list looks like this, in order:
Only 4 of the casinos in the top 10 are in Nevada, which sounds like a lot, until you consider how many casinos are in the state of Nevada compared to other states.
3- The Largest Casino in the United States in the Winstar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma
For years, Foxwoods in Connecticut was the biggest casino in the United States. It has over 340,000 square feet of entertainment. It’s been open since 1986, and the resort itself has over 2200 rooms for guests.
But the Winstar World Casino in Oklahoma has been growing like a weed since it opened in 2004. It doesn’t compete with Foxwoods in terms of number of sleeping rooms, but it has over 500,000 square feet of gambling space. I can remember when it first opened, and it was little more than a big tent on the side of the road.
Those 2 casinos combined are bigger than the next 5 biggest casinos in the country, each of which has about 150,000 square feet for gaming.
According to TripInfo.com, the next biggest casinos in the United States include:
4- There Are Only 5 States with No Casinos
Every state in the Union now has at least once casino, with only 5 exceptions:
- 1. Alaska
- 2. Tennessee
- 3. Utah
- 4. Vermont
- 5. Virginia
You would think Alaska would be a prime state for casinos, as there’s a relatively large Native American population there compared to other states. But the Indian reservations in the state of Alaska don’t fit the legal definition of “Indian Lands.” This has to do with, among other things, the tribes’ authority to levy taxes.
Tennessee is possibly the most conservative state in the Union. As a result, even though there have been repeated attempts to legalize casinos, the state still can’t pass legislation to allow casinos there. Tennessee does have a state lottery, though, and fantasy sports for money is legal there, too.
Utah, like Tennessee, is extremely conservative, largely because of the large Mormon population and influence there. When my wife visited the state a few years ago, she had trouble finding a place that would sell her a real cup of coffee. (Mormons eschew caffeine.) I think she might have been exaggerating, though, but still—that’s the kind of attitude you’re dealing with there.
Vermont is one of the smallest states in the country, and they’re best-known for their maple syrup. All the states surrounding Vermont offer casino gambling, so it’s not much of a priority to legalize, regulate, and open casinos there in the state itself.
Virginia has been politically opposed to casinos for years, even though Maryland is nearby and offers casino gambling. Their situation is similar to that of Texas. Lots of money going across the border because the state can’t find a way to convince the religious conservatives running the government to legalize and regulate casino gambling. (Texas does have one casinos, though—it’s just so out of the way that it might as well not exist.)
5- Roughly a Third of the Casinos in the United States Are Native American Casinos
Unless you’re completely unaware of United States history, you already know that we weren’t the first people here. In fact, we took over the country from the natives who already lived here. What’s left of the indigenous tribes now have a certain amount of legal authority when it comes to governing themselves.
This is referred to as “tribal sovereignty.” These tribes are considered “domestic dependent nations,” and they’re recognized by the United States federal government. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 is one of several laws that try to clarify the legal relationship between the federal government and these tribal governments. It’s specific to the operation of gambling businesses.
That law limits the ability of state governments to regulate gambling businesses run on tribal lands.
And that’s the reason we’ve seen so many Native American casinos springing to life over the last 30 years. There are close to 500 casinos run by over 200 different tribes. Since there are only 1500 or so casinos throughout the entire country, it’s easy to calculate the percentage of those that are run by Native American tribes.
Also, since Native American tribes aren’t required to report casino revenues, the actual dollar amount of revenue generated by these properties is unknown.
6- Not All United States Casinos Are the Same—They’re Categorized in Multiple Ways
You can probably guess based on what I’ve included in this post already that you can categorize U.S. casinos according to whether they’re run by a Native American tribe or not. That’s a good starting point, but you can make further categorizations, too.
One category of casinos is “pari-mutuel.” These are casinos located in horse racing or dog racing tracks. Pari-mutuel casinos are also often called “racinos.” They don’t usually differ much from other casinos, but some of them have specific laws allowing slot machines but not table games. And sometimes they offer slot machines where the results are determined by historical racing results, similar to how some casinos use bingo results to determine their slots results.
Another category of casinos is the “riverboat casino.” In many southern states, gambling was illegal, but only on dry land. These riverboat casinos used to have to go on a cruise every day, but the laws aren’t as strict now. Most riverboat casinos never leave the dock anymore.
In fact, many of these riverboat casinos aren’t even on rivers anymore. They’re now docked in lagoons. In Mississippi, the laws have relaxed so much that a riverboat casino can be built on land. It just has to be close to a river.
7- You Must Be at Least 21 Years Old to Gamble in a U.S. Casino, but There Are Some Exceptions
The laws related to the legal gambling age are state laws, so they vary by state. They’re remarkably consistent, though. In almost all states, you must be 21 to gamble. The only exceptions are:
In those states, the minimum age to gamble legally is 18.
Some states do allow limited gambling by 18 to 20-year-olds. Usually, the only kind of gambling you’re allowed to participate in if you’re under 21 is bingo and other kinds of pari-mutuel gambling. These states allow limited gambling by 18, 19, and 20-year-olds:
8- The First United States Casino Was Called Brown’s Saloon
Casino gambling as we know it dates back to 1822. Brown’s Saloon was the name of this proto-casino, and it was located near the border between Colorado and Wyoming. It was so named because it was located in a town called Brown’s Hole. The saloon catered mostly to trappers who were trading in furs, which was a popular industry at the time.
Brown’s Saloon, aka Brown’s Hole Saloon, was open for 18 years, from 1822 to 1840.
9 – The Only 2 States with Legal, Regulated Online Casinos Are Delaware and New Jersey
Delaware was the first state to legalize online casinos in 2012. They didn’t launch their first sites until late 2013. It’s a relatively small market, although they posted gambling earnings in excess of $3 million in 2016
New Jersey legalized online casinos in 2013. Compared to Delaware, the online casino marketplace in New Jersey is huge—they posted revenues of $196 million in 2016. That number increased by over 25% in just a year, so the market is still growing there.
New Jersey is expected to start taking online sports bets, soon. This should show a dramatic increase in revenues again.
Pennsylvania has passed legislation allowing online casinos, but there are no companies in business yet. The legislation is still recent.
10- Sports Betting Will Soon Become Legal in a Lot of States
Until the recent Supreme Court decision on May 14, 2018, the only state where you could legally bet on sports was Nevada. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was the law preventing states from legalizing, regulating, and offering sports betting.
In light of this Supreme Court decision, multiple states have started the ball rolling toward offering legal, regulated sports betting. Delaware, Mississippi , New Jersey, and West Virginia already had legal mechanisms in place for launching sports betting. They were just waiting for PASPA to be struck down. They’ll be the first states to offer sports betting in this new environment.
At least another dozen, and maybe as many as two dozen, other states are considering passing legislation to legalize and regulate sports betting. Most of them won’t have any action available until 2019, though, as they need time to get the legislation passed.
And there are 10 interesting facts and statistics about the state of casino gambling in various states. The United States has a rapidly changing casino and gambling environment, both legally and business-wise. It will be fascinating to watch the environment continue to grow over the next couple of decades.