It appears Americans are relatively ambivalent to the concept of sports betting, countering at least one argument against the spread of legalized wagering.
A recent survey published by Arizona State University’s Global Sports Institute, in partnership with Phoenix’s OH Predictive Insights, shows just 16% of Americans oppose or strongly oppose sports betting. And just 9% of those surveyed have changed their opinions on sports betting as it has become legal in more states.
“It seems like people haven’t changed their opinions about [sports betting], so this seems to be one of those things that if you had an opinion that you were not in favor of sports betting, that hasn’t changed,” Scott Brooks, director of research at ASU’s GSI, told US Betting Report. “It doesn’t matter about the news and whether or not states are legalizing it. Even advertising doesn’t do much to change people’s minds.
“People kind of say, ‘This is how I’ve always felt,’ so this seems to be kind of a cut-and-dry issue for many people, one way or the other.”
Breaking Down Survey By The Numbers
In the institute’s survey, 19% of respondents say they strongly favor sports betting, 25% say they somewhat favor it and 37% neither favor nor oppose it.
The GSI’s survey found 59% of men either strongly favor or somewhat favor sports betting, while 63% of female respondents said they neither favor or oppose wagering.
That ambivalence is what surprised Brooks the most, as the longtime researcher expected more polarized opinions on the subject.
“You have those who are in favor and those who are opposed, but the largest group were those just sitting right there in the middle,” Brooks said. “And so that was kind of surprising, and they didn’t believe that they’d be swayed one way or another.”
For Brooks and his team, the most surprising element of the institute’s survey is how much space there is for opinions to shift as the market moves forward.
“I think that tells us we don’t know whether this is going to swing, where a lot more people are going to start betting versus people making a decision not to, and I think that gap is an opportunity,” Brooks said.
Room for Growth in American Market
The other takeaway from the institute’s survey for Brooks and his team was the strong possibility for growing the customer base in the American sports betting marketplace, as 80% of respondents say they bet once a year or less.
That’s thanks to the relatively young age of the market, four years after sports betting outside of Las Vegas was opened when the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was overturned.
The institute’s sports betting survey found an overwhelming majority of respondents were in favor of state autonomy on sports betting (52%), with 21% saying all states should legalize wagering and 11% arguing states should prohibit it.
Eighty-five percent of respondents answered yes or maybe when asked if measures should be put in place to prevent/and or treat compulsive sports betting.
The survey also found 45% of respondents had zero recollection of seeing messaging concerning the potential harms of sports betting.
For Brooks, the lack of educational information about gambling and the general acceptance of autonomy to legalize it, shows there’s room for growth on both fronts.
“I think what we would like for them to take away from our survey is, one, that Americans still don’t have all the information,” Brooks said. “I mean, 45% of respondents had some knowledge [of betting], but Americans as a whole are not that aware of sports betting. They’re not paying as much attention to the legalization of it, and they are not aware of the potential harms of it. So that, to me, is something for us to pay attention to.”
Full-Steam Ahead Future for American Sports Betting
Regardless of the public’s perception, it appears sports betting is set to achieve similar levels of growth seen in other, more established markets — such as the United Kingdom — according to Brooks.
He cited the growing number of in-arena or in-stadium retail sportsbooks, such as the Caesars Sportsbook facility inside Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., and the FanDuel Sportsbook inside Phoenix’s Footprint Center, as proof of the industry’s growth potential.
“I do think that once you open that door, you’ve opened the floodgate,” he said. “Las Vegas is probably the closest [analogy]. I think that it’s inevitable that our biggest leagues are going to continue to build partnerships and see this as a business opportunity that they can gain from.
“So, I don’t think we can put the horse back in the stable. I think we’re there now. So, the question becomes, ‘How do we feel about this and what do we want organizations to do as we learn more?’”