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Navigating the IRS and Your Gambling Winnings

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Alisson Ward

Tax Professional | Content Writer

Navigating the IRS and Your Gambling Winnings

The IRS and Gambling Winnings

The allure of a big win at the casino or through sports betting can be irresistible. The excitement, the anticipation, and the hope of striking it rich can draw many into the world of gambling. But as the saying goes, "The only sure bet is no bet." While gambling can bring thrilling moments and unexpected riches, it can also raise questions about tax implications. If you’ve hit the jackpot, the question on your mind might be, "How much will the IRS take from my gambling winnings?" 

Understanding the Basics

Before we explore the IRS’s approach to gambling winnings, it’s crucial to grasp the fundamental principles:

  • Legal Requirement: The IRS expects you to report all your gambling winnings, regardless of the amount. This includes winnings from casino games, lotteries, horse racing, and even online betting.
  • Reporting Threshold: If your winnings exceed $600 at a horse track, $1,200 at a slot machine, $1,500 in keno winnings, or $5,000 in poker tournament winnings, the establishment will provide you and the IRS with a Form W-2G.
  • Taxation: Gambling winnings are generally subject to federal income tax. Depending on your total income, you might fall into a higher tax bracket due to these additional earnings.

Types of Gambling Income

Gambling income is more than just hitting the jackpot on a slot machine. It encompasses a range of sources:

  • Casino Games: This includes winnings from slot machines, poker, blackjack, and other table games.
  • Lotteries: Whether you’ve scored a few dollars on a scratch-off ticket or won a substantial lottery prize, these winnings are considered gambling income.
  • Horse Racing: If you’re a fan of the racetrack, your winnings from horse racing bets are also included.
  • Sports Betting: With the legalization of sports betting in some states, any wins from this type of gambling are subject to taxation.
  • Online Gambling: The IRS leaves no room for ambiguity. Even if you strike it lucky through online gambling platforms, those winnings are taxable.

How the IRS Treats Gambling Winnings

The IRS applies different tax rates to gambling income based on the source and amount:

  • W-2G Forms: If your winnings exceed the reporting threshold, the establishment will provide you and the IRS with a Form W-2G. This form specifies the type and amount of gambling income and any federal taxes withheld.
  • Tax Withholding: In some cases, the establishment may withhold a portion of your winnings upfront to cover potential tax obligations. However, the amount withheld isn’t necessarily the final tax bill.

Deducting Gambling Losses

One advantage for gamblers is that you can deduct gambling losses if you itemize your deductions. Here’s how it works:

  • Itemizing Deductions: To claim gambling losses, you must itemize deductions on your tax return using Schedule A.
  • Losses and Winnings: You can deduct gambling losses up to the total amount of your gambling winnings. For example, if you won $5,000 but incurred $3,000 in losses, you can deduct the $3,000.
  • Documentation: It’s essential to keep detailed records of your losses, including receipts, tickets, and any other supporting documents.


The thrill of gambling and the excitement of winning can be an unforgettable experience. However, understanding the IRS’s treatment of gambling income is vital to avoid any unexpected tax-related surprises. By reporting your gambling winnings and considering deductions for losses, you can stay in control of your financial situation. And when it comes to navigating the complexities of taxation and gambling, the experts at Priority Tax Relief are here to provide guidance and support, ensuring that you meet your tax obligations while optimizing your overall financial well-being.

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