The Most Popular Gambling States in America

Since Nevada legalized casinos and gambling in 1931, casinos have become an inseparable part of the American fabric. Pop culture and Hollywood films made casinos mainstream in the 1950s, starting in Reno. As the 60s came, Hollywood icons like Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe helped to put Las Vegas casinos on the map. With the dawn of the 1980s, Atlantic City helped to take organized casinos into New Jersey and the East Coast.

Between today and the 1980s, which saw tribal casinos open in states outside Nevada and New Jersey, the American casino industry is well worth over $50 billion, and that includes iGaming, mobile apps, and sports betting. This guide will help you get to know the states that do organized casinos the best.

1) Nevada

Despite fierce competition from other states, the Silver State still ranks number one. Many of the marquee casino brands, including MGM Resorts and Casino, Caesars Entertainment, and the Las Vegas Sands, all dominate the Las Vegas Strip and other Nevada cities like Reno and Stateline in Lake Tahoe. At the dawn of 2022, the Silver State closed out 2021 with more than $13 billion in gambling revenue.

2) New Jersey

In 1978, Atlantic City, New Jersey, made history by opening the Oceans Resort, the first casino outside of Nevada. The strategy behind legalizing casinos in the Garden State was to help revive the Boardwalk and Ocean City for tourism. It didn’t take long for more casinos to open on the Beach Boardwalk. With the dawn of the 80s, former US President Donald Trump put Atlantic City on the map with a string of Trump-named casinos dominating the Boardwalk landscape.

Trump Plaza, Donald Trump’s signature casino, has become home to championship boxing sporting events and WWE’s WWE’s Wrestlemanias IV and V, two of the highest-grossing pay-per-views of all time. Unfortunately, Atlantic City’s casinos took a downturn by the late 1990s, with many closing by the late 2000s. In 2013, through the efforts of former Governor Chris Christie, New Jersey became the second state after Delaware to sanction online casinos. New Jersey dominates the iGaming sector among six other states with thirty online casino sites.

3) Pennsylvania

Today, the Keystone State rivals Nevada’s casinos by ranking second in the nation for overall gambling tax revenue. Pennsylvania’s journey into legal casinos began in 2004 when former Governor Ed Rendell signed legislation to launch the initial casinos, mostly tribal casinos. The first wave of casinos only had bingo and slots. In 2004, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board was also launched, the agency that manages the licenses of the state’s casinos, including virtual ones.

In 2010, former Governor Ed Rendell signed amendments to allow Pennsylvanians to gamble on table games like poker, baccarat, and more. But it was the groundbreaking signing in 2017 by current Governor Wolf that put Pennsylvania Gaming into overdrive. The signing of HB271 sanctioned online casinos in the Quaker State. Today, Pennsylvania competes with New Jersey for sports betting and online gambling. Pennsylvania’s overall gambling netted over $550 million in March of this year.

4) Michigan

The Great Lakes first opened their casinos in the 1990s through tribal ownership and compacts. In 1996, brand-name casinos like Caesars Entertainment and the MGM Grand began opening flagship casinos in Detroit. Through the 2010s, both tribal and commercial casinos have expanded, including fan-favorites like MotorCity Casino and Greektown Casino.

As 2019 ended, current Governor Whitmer signed legislation to launch online casinos in the Wolverine State. By 2023, Michigan had generated more than $2.3 billion in gambling revenue.

5) West Virginia

For such a small state that has been decimated by the closing of the coal industry, the Coal State remains one of the biggest surprises for organized casinos. Despite having only a handful of casinos in the state, together with online casinos, they generate nearly $1 billion annually. Many of the premier sports books operate in West Virginia, and with new ones slated to come online by the end of 2024, West Virginia is set to keep the gambling boom going with more than a dozen online casinos.

6) Oregon

This quiet Pacific Northwest State has very quietly become a gambling gem. Despite the fact that Oregon online casinos are not yet legal, The Beaver State generates more than $2 billion annually. Oregon only has tribal casinos who have become so successful that Oregon residents and visitors dropped $73 million for casino and sports betting in December 2023.

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