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Most adults support legal gambling, poll reports

WASHINGTON -- Americans strongly support legal gambling despite concerns about the integrity of sporting events and the threat of addiction, a new poll shows.

Nearly two-thirds of American adults approve of legal gambling, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday. Three-quarters of those surveyed said they approve of state lotteries, while 67 percent said that opening a casino helps a community's economy.Many of those who approve of gambling reasoned that people should have the right to choose what to do with their money and how to enjoy their free time.

But the poll did not represent an unqualified endorsement of gambling, which has grown substantially in the past two decades. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia now run lotteries; commercial casinos operate in 10 states, and Indian tribes have opened casinos in at least 22 states.

Almost half of those polled favored maintaining the current level of legal gambling, while 22 percent favored expansion, 16 percent wanted to roll it back and 13 percent supported a gambling ban.

"There is a clear distinction in Americans' minds about the economic benefits of casinos and the social impact on the communities in which they operate," Gallup reported.

Fifty-five percent of the adults surveyed said legalized gambling "is creating a compulsive gambling problem in this country," and 68 percent said they believe sports betting leads to cheating or fixing games.

The gambling industry may face a popularity problem in the future, as the teenagers who were polled, more than the adults, saw a dark side to gambling.

Only 52 percent of teenagers polled said they approve of legal gambling, compared with two-thirds of the adults. Asked to assess the statement that gambling harms respect for the value of hard work, 58 percent of the teens agreed strongly or somewhat, compared with 43 percent of adults.

Gallup's telephone poll of 1,523 adults and 501 teenagers from April 30-May 23 carries an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points for adults, 5 percentage points for teens.