In the history of bad ideas, online gambling has to be the worst. That’s the opinion of the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling. Despite lacking any hard facts to support the claim, this message has been bandied around political forums since 2013. Those familiar with the organization will know that Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson is the group’s chief supporter and the man that’s used his billions to ensure the rhetoric is heard loud and clear on Capitol Hill.
What you’ll also know is that when money is involved, facts often take a back seat. Depending on your perspective, this may or may not be the case when it comes to Adelson’s anti-online gambling outfit. However, there are two things that are certain:
- 1) Online gambling doesn’t have an advocate as rich or influential as Adelson.
- 2) The facts are weighted in our favor.
Betting and Gaming Continues to Fight with Facts
The latest report to shine a positive light on the industry comes courtesy of Lend Edu. Aiming to assess the impact of legalized sports betting in the US, the 2019 survey revealed some interesting facts about online sports betting. As with all studies, nothing is ever 100% indisputable. However, the team behind the report endeavored to obtain as much reliable data as possible.
Indeed, by surveying 886 Americans, those involved were able to get a full cross-section of the population, including experienced bettors, novices and non-gamblers. What’s more, the data is pulled from residents in Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Mississippi, and New Mexico.
Picking through the results, the most striking stat is that 75% of those surveyed were in favor of regulated online sports betting. When questioned why the supported legalization, 65% said it would generate more revenue for states. Building on this, 81% of respondents stated that they preferred to bet online rather than live. While that doesn’t negate claims such as “online gambling is harmful to society,” it does suggest there is an appetite for it in the US.
Consumers Favor Regulation
These facts raise two points. Firstly, Pandora’s box is now open and the majority of people see it as a positive. So, to close the lid now would be very difficult. A pertinent comparison at the moment would be the legalization of marijuana. With states and individuals reaping the benefits of controlled distribution, it would take a lot for laws to be reversed.
Secondly, with so many Americans hot on sports betting, an outright ban would force people underground. Indeed, prior to PASPA being overturned, the American Gaming Association estimated that $150 billion was illegally wagered on sports each year.
Regulation Translates in Safety and Increased Revenue
To put it another way, the majority of people didn’t feel safe betting via an unregulated website. If that’s the case, the money wagered was being made by a small percentage of the population. When you couple this with an increased willingness to bet legally, it’s possible to say that $150 billion in bets is conservative (we know around $6 billion was likely wagered on the Super Bowl). In other words, if all states were to embrace regulated offline and online gambling, the upside for the economy would be huge.
Regulation Hasn’t Opened the Floodgates of Hell
Beyond the financial benefits of online sports betting, the main criticism made by Adelson and his cronies is that operators are a threat to the vulnerable.
“Internet gambling opens the door to unscrupulous characters. They target the young and the elderly, making it all look fun and easy until someone gets in over their head,” states the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling’s video promo.
Ignoring the fact these are sweeping statements without any factual support, the latest data suggests this isn’t the case. As per the report, in states were sports betting is legal, 54% have placed a bet. If we’re worried about an epidemic, this is hardly it. What’s more, the evidence implies that people aren’t betting their house.
Reviewing the statistics, the median bet per person is $124. This means that the average American is likely to stake $124 on sports. Of course, everyone has their own financial limits. However, this figure doesn’t quite match the idea of “someone getting in over their head” and betting uncontrollably.
Betting on Credit Isn’t Popular
Finally, it seems that people betting on sports with money they don’t have isn’t a big issue. Concluding the report, Lend Edu found that only 12% of people made deposits using their credit card. In contrast, PayPal was the preferred payment option. Of those that did use credit, 90% said they pay off their balance in full every month.
While no debt is ever ideal, the point here is that people aren’t mindlessly throwing their money around. Yes, there’s always the possibility someone will spend more than they can afford. However, at this stage, almost all sports bettors appear to be acting responsibly. That fact alone should be enough to silence the critics.
Of course, we know that money has the power to silence the facts. However, the latest report should be seen as a win for regulated betting. Aside from giving people a safe platform, the industry is highly lucrative. For any politician willing to put the nation’s bank balance ahead of their own, the long-term benefits of regulated betting far outweigh the self-serving donations of one man.