More Americans support sports betting, post-UMD poll finds

As states across the country legalize sports betting and online sportsbooks flood sports television with celebrity-endorsed ads, Americans are becoming more accepting of the practice, a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll finds.

Four years after the Supreme Court struck down a law that restricted sports gambling primarily in Nevada, 66 percent now approve of legalizing betting on professional sporting events. That’s up from 55 percent who said the same in 2017, before the Supreme Court ruling, and 41 percent in 1993. Support for legalizing college sports betting is lower: 49 percent approve and 50 percent do not approve.

Betting has been legalized and made available in 30 states and the District of Columbia so far. In five other states, sports betting has been legalized but is not yet operational. A 54 percent majority of Americans say the growing share of states that allow people to bet on sporting events is “neither good nor bad.” The remainder is split between good and bad, 23 percent each.

Despite growing approval, 71 percent of Americans say they are “very” or “somewhat” concerned that the increased availability of sports betting will lead to more people becoming addicted to gambling. Most Americans (64 percent) do not know anyone who has had a gambling problem very often or very often, but 21 percent say they have a family member with a gambling problem, 14 percent say they have a close friend with a problem gambling. and 4 percent say they themselves have had a gambling problem.

About a quarter, 24 percent of Americans say professional athletes should be allowed to bet on their league’s games if their team is not competing. A majority of 76 percent say this should not be allowed. The NFL suspended Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley for at least a year after he placed bets on NFL games.

Gambling advertising has become ubiquitous during sports broadcasts. Thirty-seven percent of Americans say they are disturbed by those ads compared to 54 percent for prescription drug ads and 25 percent for beer ads.

The most common way people bet on sports is between friends or through an office pool, with 67 percent of sports bettors doing so in the past five years. About half of bettors say they gamble online using betting or fantasy sports websites and apps (49 percent), while 40 percent have bet in person at a casino. A smaller 12 percent bet on stadiums or arenas.

Only 8 percent of American adults report placing sports bets monthly or more often, and fewer than 2 in 10 Americans, 17 percent, say they have bet on a professional sporting event in the past five years. Among sports fans, 20 percent say they have bet. That number is essentially unchanged from the 21 percent who said the same in 2017.

As of 2017, the consistency in the percentage of Americans who bet on sports is consistent with other surveys. An SSRS/Luker on Trends survey found that 16 percent of adults age 21 and older said they had “ever bet on sports” in data from January to April 2022, almost unchanged from 15 to 16 percent in results from 2018 to 2021. This February, Marist College found that 36 percent of adults had ever placed a bet on a professional or college sports game or participated in a pool, down from 40 percent in 2017.

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Sports betting is common among avid sports fans: 48 percent have placed a bet in the past five years and 32 percent say they bet once a month or more, according to the Post-UMD survey.

The survey reveals that 62 per cent of punters under 50 have placed a bet online compared to 26 per cent of those 50 and over. Bettors under 50 are also significantly more likely to bet on a stadium or arena (17 percent) than those 50 and older (3 percent).

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According to the Post-UMD survey, 7 percent of adults ages 21-25 say they placed a bet before they were 21, similar to 11 percent of all adults who said they bet on sports before they were 21. turned 21 years old. This suggests the increased availability of internet betting has not led to a large percentage of young adults betting before they turn 21.

Keith Whyte, chief executive of the National Council on Problem Gambling, said his group’s internal data showed an increase in the number of gamblers since 2018 – but not by a huge margin. “This means that many people are switching from illegal gambling to legal gambling,” he said. “Within the betting community, you’re looking at frequency and spending. We suspect this is increasing.”

Some of the most populous states in the country, including California and Florida, have yet to legalize gambling. New York went live this year. Some industry analysts noted that gambling operators and states were bringing in healthy amounts of revenue that were in line with forecasts.

Chris Grove, a co-founding partner of Acies Investment, which focuses on gambling, sports and technology, said legalizing gambling would never bring back non-sports fans or people who had no interest in sports betting. .

“The number of people entering an office pool or putting $5 on a game with a friend is not going to move,” he said. “But the US is clearly on pace to meet or exceed the performance of more mature gambling markets on an adjusted GDP per capita basis.”

The poll was conducted online May 4-17, 2022, among a random national sample of 1,503 adults by The Washington Post and the University of Maryland’s Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism and Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement. The sample was obtained through the SSRS Opinion Panel, an ongoing survey panel recruited through random sampling of US households. Overall results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Scott Clement contributed to this report.

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