Iowa State University
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Iowa State University

Beverly Crabtree, College of Family and Consumer Sciences, (515) 294- 5980
Joyce Mercier, College of Family and Consumer Sciences, (515) 294-6316
Glenn Roberts, Glenn Roberts Research, (515) 294-276-7002
Michelle Johnson, News Service, (515) 294-8986


AMES, Iowa -- Despite the well-entrenched image of elderly Iowans filling bingo halls, older Iowans are less likely to gamble than younger people, according to a survey conducted for Iowa State University's College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Fewer than four of 10 Iowans ages 70 and older gamble, compared with seven of 10 Iowans under the age of 70.

The FACS (Family and Consumer Sciences) Poll, the first statewide public opinion poll on Iowans' attitudes on gambling and the family, showed that more Iowans think gambling is a negative than a positive for the elderly, although the number was not a majority. However, more than 56 percent oppose gambling facilities providing buses to transport residents of long-term care centers to gambling establishments. In fact, the older the respondent, the less likely he or she was to agree that busing to casinos from care centers was a good idea. Only 27 percent of Iowans age 70 and over thought the buses were a good idea, compared to 41 percent of those in the 18-29 age group.

The poll revealed that younger Iowans participated in every category of gambling in much larger numbers than older Iowans. In the past year, 53 percent of Iowans ages 18-29 said they had purchased a lottery ticket, as compared to 33 percent of Iowans age 70 and over.

There were also differences between older and younger gamblers when they gave their reasons for gambling. Iowans 70 and over were nearly three times as likely as young gamblers to mention "meeting people and expanding relationships" as a reason why they gamble. Younger gamblers were more likely to mention "enjoyment," "entertainment," and "winning money" than those over the age of 70.

Forty percent of the non-gamblers age 70 and older said they oppose all gambling. Only 11 percent of the non-gamblers ages 18 to 29 made that claim.

It is clear that gambling is more acceptable to younger Iowans, whether or not they wager themselves.

The FACS Poll was conducted by Glenn Roberts Research of Des Moines. Pollster Glenn Roberts said he was surprised by the high level of adults gambling -- 68 percent. He mentioned that while few in the survey admit to compulsion as their motivation to gamble, 20 percent of Iowans name 'compulsion' as a reason why other people gamble.

"I suspect that in-depth research and probing may discover that 'compulsion' is a much stronger force driving gambling than appears on the surface," said Roberts. "If true, this signals greater social and economic problems for Iowans in the future."

The poll was a random cross-section of 632 adult Iowans who answered questions during 15- to 20-minute telephone interviews. Poll questions were developed by ISU Family and Consumer Sciences faculty members and Glenn Roberts. The poll has a maximum 4.1 percent margin of error for the full sample.