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8 things you can do instead of going to the casino

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About 34 percent of Americans go to a casino in a year, while 32 percent of Americans have actually gambled at those casinos.

About 34 percent of Americans go to a casino in a year, while 32 percent of Americans have actually gambled at those casinos.

Comaniciu Dan, ©istockphoto.com/DanComaniciu

Casinos have the lights, luster and legacy.

But they're far from being alone in the entertainment world.

Right now, Americans spend $37.43 million on gambling at commercial casinos, according to the American Gaming Association. About 34 percent of Americans go to a casino in a year, while 32 percent of Americans have actually gambled at those casinos, the AGA survey found.

But not everyone in the Untied States is slinging their dollars out on the slot machines. For families, gambling can be a problem, given the age limit of 21-plus that bars kids and young ones from getting in, and for others, it can be quite a drain on the pocketbook. That's why some have looked for religious solutions to casinos or are speaking out about their problems first-hand in groups.

Here are eight family friendly alternatives to casinos that can be just as entertaining:

Bring out the card games.

There are an incredible amount of card games for people to play that don't require gambling. Pagat, a card games information website, listed Rummy, Gin Rummy and Crazy Eights as the three most popular card games that people are searching for as of July 14. Card games have also been linked to helping people improve eye-hand coordination, develop motor skills and learn.

Hook up the video games.

Not interested in the slot machine? Video games can help you with that. Playing games that link the family together — take a look at this list for examples — can be beneficial to the family. Children who play video games for an hour a day have been proven to adjust better in life than those who didn’t, according to an Oxford University study. So smashing buttons with your kids may help them a grow a little bit more.

Drive out to your local arcade.

It’s like a casino for kids, just without the gambling and the alcohol. Sure, arcades are going through a bit of a transition phase right now — some have said that arcades are on the way out, while others have suggested that they’re on the comeback — but they do offer a nice alternative to casinos. Hit up a Dave & Busters to see the bright lights, the games and the family entertainment that only an arcade can bring.

Spend time at restaurants.

If you’re one of the Americans who eat out five times a week, you can head to a restaurant close by and play some games while waiting for your meal and drinks. Buzztime is a service that is offered in restaurants — like Buffalo Wild Wings — that allows users to play games within the restaurant between customers. Good, old-fashioned family conversation doesn't hurt either.

Log-in to online games and websites.

Buzztime is one thing, but how about Pogo games? Or one of Facebook’s several different games? There are many options for people to play online. That’s led 1.2 million people to play games across the world, according to the State of Online gaming report. In fact, 50 percent of people playing games online are actually from the United States, the report showed. So playing online isn’t too uncommon and would make a nice alternative to the casino scene.

Play those smartphone games.

If you’re not near a computer, you can find games as close as your smartphone. About two-thirds of smartphone users play games on their phones, Parks Associates found. And, even more, more than 50 percent of smartphone users are spending more than an hour a day playing those games, according to a survey by MocoSpace. Join the majority for a quick game or two to pass the time, or start up a competition between your family to get things really going.

Scratch those lotto tickets.

These aren’t available in all states, but they’re a nice alternative to dropping hundreds on the betting table. Scratch tickets run anywhere from $1 to $20 in most places and allow users to win some cash for a simple scratch. Some have also tried to beat the system, buying many in bunches to win the cash, like this one story as seen on The Atlantic. Spending too much money on the tickets could be problematic, though, but it is a cheaper alternative than heading to the actual casino. And the funds in some states actually benefit a good cause, like the HOPE Scholarship in Georgia that gives some of the proceeds to elgible college students.

Watch some sporting events.

You don’t have to bet on the games, but spending some time with the family rooting and cheering for a sports team can be just as thrilling and exciting as gambling. Millions of people are watching all different kinds of sports across the United States, showing it is a common activity for the American public and one that can add excitement to the day without causing you to break the bank at the Blackjack table.

Email: hscribner@deseretdigital.com

Twitter: @herbscribner