Religion and Gambling Among U.S. Adults: Exploring the Role of Traditions, Beliefs, Practices, and Networks


  • Authors contributed equally to this article; names are listed in alphabetical order.

Correspondence should be addressed to Michael McFarland, Department of Sociology, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station G1800, Austin, TX 78712. E-mail:


Opportunities for legal gambling of various types have expanded rapidly in the United States in recent years. Our study develops a series of theoretical arguments linking multiple dimensions of religious involvement—traditions, beliefs, practices, and networks—with the frequency of gambling activity. Relevant hypotheses are then tested using data from the Panel Study of American Religion and Ethnicity (PS-ARE), a recent nationwide probability sample of U.S. adults. Findings underscore the importance of co-religionist networks in deterring gambling. In addition, biblical inerrantists and members of conservative Protestant and sectarian groups are relatively disinclined to gamble. Religious attendance is also inversely associated with gambling frequency. Differences in gambling by religious tradition are amplified among persons with strong co-religionist networks. Several study limitations are noted, and promising future research directions on the dynamics and functioning of church-based networks are identified.