Thanks in large part to the legendary Las Vegas Strip, the United States is widely seen as the world’s foremost country when it comes to gambling. But even without Sin City’s unrivaled status as a casino capital, Americans have always harbored a fascination with wagering on games of chance and skill. And with the plethora of land-based casinos in the US, we back up that claim with pride!
Presidents like Grant and Nixon played poker in the White House, while average Joes from coast to coast have long put their money where their mouth is betting on horse races, sporting events, and riverboat casinos spreading roulette, craps, and blackjack.
Indeed, the US has long loved the gambling lifestyle, ever since a band of bold patriots risked their lives on revolution. A passion for gambling is hardly exclusive to Americans though, so read on to learn about seven countries where betting has become big business.
1 – The United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland)
Given the historical and cultural links between America and the United Kingdom, it’s no surprise to see this fearsome foursome of European nations atop the list.
Despite a relative lack of land mass—England itself is only 50,000 square miles, or roughly the same size as Alabama—the UK crams 8,320 retail sportsbooks alone into a small space. In fact, the world’s first commercial sportsbook operation was started by bookmaker William Hill way back in 1934.
Today, the William Hill brand is ubiquitous throughout the UK and Europe, while Americans know it as the latest acquisition target of Caesars Sportsbook.
Obviously, the English, Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish gamblers who reside in the UK are mad for soccer (football to the locals). According to a 2020 report by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), football “punters” across the UK wager £449.44 million on “The Beautiful Game” each year.
Casinos are also a booming business throughout the UK, where 156 gambling halls—ranging from glitzy Vegas-style resorts to hole-in-the-wall pubs—can be found running around the clock.
As for those gamblers, a 2020 BBC survey found that 51 percent UK residents reported recently placing a bet of some sort.
Throw in horseracing tracks, a national lottery, dozens of major online casinos / sportsbooks, and even a cultural penchant for bingo, and gamblers in the UK collectively wager more than £14.5 billion annually.
2 – Singapore
By far the smallest country to make the list, Singapore is downright tiny. The sovereign city-state occupies an island near the South China Sea, and at only 274 square miles in size, America’s smallest state Rhode Island is three times as large.
Still, more than 5 million residents call Singapore home, with 75% comprised of ethnic Chinese and another 15% made up of Malays. But no matter where modern Singaporeans trace their roots, they all share one thing in common—a deep passion for casino gambling.
Due to the island’s limited land-mass, you’ll only find two casinos here. With that said, both the Marina Bay Sands and the Resorts World Casino Sentosa are massive venues the likes of which Las Vegas has never seen.
Consider this: The largest casino in Vegas is the Wynn and Encore with just under 200,000 square feet of total gaming floor space. At the Marina Bay Sands alone however, players have over 600,000 square feet of floor space to wander around and wager on.
And at $1,174 in annual losses per adult citizen, Singapore’s resident gamblers clearly have no reservations about risking big bucks for a shot at even bigger rewards.
3 – Australia
The only people who lose more money gambling, based on the annual average, are Australians with a $1,288 loss per year rate.
In fact, other than Singapore, no other country comes close. The Irish collectively lose $588 per gambler annually. So, Australians part ways with more than twice their ostensibly lucky brethren. And this makes a certain amount of sense, as the first non-native Australians, like their American counterparts, arrived after departing England.
To wit, nearly 40% of Australian adults identified as regular casino gamblers in a recent Sky News poll.
More so than any game, Australians love themselves a long session on the pokies, collectively wagering $181.4 billion at the casino alone. When state- and territorial-operated lotteries, online sportsbooks, and informal bingo and poker games are taken into account, Australians generate more than $200 billion in wagers every year. With roulette ruling the Australian gambling scene!
Local company Aristocrat has also grown into one of the largest slot machine designers in the industry, with its Mr. Cashman brand becoming an icon among spinners worldwide.
4 – Finland
This small Scandinavian nation only has two brick and mortar casinos: Casino Helsinki and Casino Mariehamn. But they attract 80% of Finland’s 2.8 million of-age gamblers.
And until recently, the legal gambling age for Finnish citizens was only 15 years old, but that threshold was increased to 18 in 2010.
In spite of the relative absence of land-based casinos, every major online gambling operator offers its services throughout Finland.
The Finnish government is also heavily involved in the gambling industry via its state-controlled monopoly. Slot machines are supervised by the RAY association, Veikkaus oversees the state lottery, and Finoto controls the country’s horseracing tracks.
Following the lead of fellow Nordic nations like the Netherlands, Finland has carved out quite a niche for itself within the broader European gambling market.
5 – Canada
Vegas-style casino resorts, a healthy provincial-operated lottery system, and a newly legalized sports betting industry—Canada really does make it easy on its gambling community.
With 88 brick and mortar casinos stretching from British Columbia to Nova Scotia, and all points in between, Canada boasts a modern, mature gambling industry. Casino de Montréal is the largest, sporting a gaming floor which spans 526,000 square feet which is vastly superior to anything you’ll see in Vegas.
Casino de Montréal joins Fallsview Casino Resort near Niagara Falls as regular hosts of World Poker Tour (WPT) championship tournaments.
And that number is sure to grow by leaps and bounds following the 2021 launch of legal single-game sports betting. Before you know it, all of the biggest and best online sportsbooks will be planting their flags in the Great White North.
6 – China
Technically speaking, all forms of casino gambling and sports betting are expressly forbidden by China’s ultra-strict Communist government.
And I do mean strict, as a recent government crackdown imposed 10-year prison sentences on anybody caught organizing casino “junket” trips to Australia and elsewhere abroad.
Nonetheless, the Chinese culture is historically steeped in gambling games, especially modern casino staples like pai gow and sic bo. With a blanket ban on casinos across the mainland, however, Chinese citizens must travel to the nearby autonomous island of Macau to enjoy a little action.
At only 28 square miles in size, the tiny island of Macau somehow holds 41 full-scale casino resorts—topped by the massive Venetian Macao. You’ll find everything here that the original Venetian in Vegas has to offer, including 3,400 machines and 800 table games stretched across the expansive 550,000 square foot floor.
For the last decade, elite professional poker players have even relocated permanently to Macau, seeking to secure an elusive seat in the largest-stakes games ever played. A few of them include 10-time WSOP gold bracelet winner Phil Ivey and online legend Tom Dwan.
They say music is the universal language, one which can be understood across the wide spectrum of humanity’s localized cultures. Truer words have never been spoken! But for my money anyhow, I’d venture that gambling on games of chance and skill ranks as a close second.
Fossil records demonstrate that humanity’s closest ancestors crafted crude dice out of seashells more than 8,000 years ago. And from that point forward, gambling remained a central aspect of social interaction.
The Ancient Romans drew lots to amuse themselves in between conquests, real money roulette was invented in 17th century France, and the first Americans pioneered poker games like Stud Poker.
Knowing the deep historical roots imbued in gambling games, the fact that sportsbooks, casinos, lotteries, and other wagers have spread so easily around the planet is hardly surprising.