This study explored the cross sectional association between adverse life events and gambling in a sample of 515 urban adolescents (average age 17, 55% male, 88% African American). Approximately half of the sample had gambled in the past year (51%); 78% of the gamblers gambled monthly and 39% had a gambling-related problem. On the other hand, 88% of the sample had experienced at least one life event in the past year, and those experiencing events tended to live in more disadvantaged neighborhoods. The mere acknowledgement of experiencing a stressful life event in the past year (yes/no) was not associated with an increase in odds of being a gambler, with gambling more frequently, or with having a gambling problem. However, when the context of the event was considered, an association was found between directly experiencing threatening and deviant/violent types of events and frequent gambling (OR > 2). Additionally, the probability of being a gambler increased as the number of events experienced increased (aOR = 1.07, 95% CI = 1.01, 1.13, P = 0.013), but problems among gamblers were not associated with the number of events experienced (aOR = 1.01, 95% CI = 0.92, 1.11, P = 0.876). During adolescence, life events appear to be connected more with the frequency of gambling rather than with problems related to gambling.