If you only gamble once or twice a year, then you may not need to maintain a gambling journal. However, if you gamble with any regularity, it is extremely important to keep an accurate record of your gambling results. You will see that the benefits outweigh the inconvenience of keeping track of your play. Most gamblers do not keep a journal when they gamble, and it is usually to their detriment.
The gambling tax laws differ from state to state, but there are a few commonalities of which all gamblers need to be aware. A lot of gamblers enter the casino without any consideration of the tax implications. Winnings in casinos are heavily taxed. If you are issued a W-2G, those winnings are reported to the IRS and taxes must be paid. The problem occurs for individuals that receive several W-2G’s but have lost more money than they have won for the year. The government only knows about your winnings and not the losses. In their eyes, these gamblers still owe them money. This is where a gambling journal is essential. If you have an accurate account of all of your wins and losses for the year, it will help you offset the taxes that you owe.
What to Keep in Your Gambling Journal
Every time you gamble, it should be recorded. The journal should include a detailed account of every gambling session. It should include the name of the casino, the times you gambled, what games you played, how much you wagered, and the results. The more information you can include the better. Some gamblers will even write down the serial number of the slot or video poker machine they are playing. It needs to be enough information to satisfy the IRS in case you are audited. A win/loss statement from a casino is not considered a legal tax document. You must have a personally recorded detailed account of every time you made a wager and the results.
Other Benefits of Keeping a Journal
Keeping a gambling log can be tedious and time consuming, but you must realize there are other benefits besides accurate tax records. By recording your results, it gives a clear picture of your wins and losses. This forces you to acknowledge how much you have really won or lost. The mind of a gambler tends to remember the wins and forget about the losses. Immediately recording your results after a gambling session will provide you with the factual data you need to monitor your gambling behavior. It’s another method to help you keep from losing more money in a casino than you intended.
When you first begin keeping a gambling log it may feel like a chore that is taking away from the entertainment value of the casino. As it becomes habitual, you will soon see the value of having a journal. Not only will it put your mind at ease in relation to your taxes, but it will help you maintain a gambling lifestyle that is enjoyable and not problematic.