Bettors Still Confused About Which Sportsbooks Are Legal, AGA Research Says

Written By Grant Lucas on July 22, 2020 - Last Updated on January 28, 2021
US participants remain confused about sports betting's legality, recent AGA research shows

Among the top reasons given to integrate state-sanctioned sports betting has been the desire to convert bettors using offshore and illegal sportsbooks.

If new research from the American Gaming Association is any indication, that hunger is certainly being satisfied.

A new survey conducted by Heart + Mind Strategies discovered that average spending with illegal operators dropped 25% in states with legalized wagering over the past year, while regulated online betting jumped 12%.

“We’ve known for a long time that Americans like to bet on sports. This research affirms their interest in moving toward the protections of the legal market,” Bill Miller, president and CEO of the AGA, said in a news release. “Giving consumers convenient alternatives to the illegal market, like regulated mobile offerings and competitive odds, is key for getting bettors to switch to legal channels.”

Additionally, 74% of bettors indicated that it was important to only wager through legal sportsbooks. That said, 52% of respondents still took their business to the illegal market.

A big reason: More than half of consumers (55%) who placed bets with illegal operators believed they had wagered legally.

More education needed to bolster legal sports betting

In unveiling the confusion amid bettors, the AGA determined that increased education is necessary. This would apply for bettors on responsible gaming and for the media on the negative influence they create by promoting offshore operators.

The AGA pointed out that creating and maintaining a directory of licensed online and retail sportsbooks in the legalized world would prove helpful.

“Illegal offshore operators continue to take advantage of unknowing consumers,” Miller said. “This only worsened during the [COVID-19] sports shutdown, with unregulated bookmakers offering odds on everything from the weather and shark migration patterns to whether your friends’ marriage will survive the pandemic.

“The AGA is focused on educating customers on how to wager legally and about the dangers of the illegal market.”

AGA urges more alternatives to illegal sports betting market

Since PASPA fell, 22 states and the District of Columbia have either introduced or are awaiting the launch of legalized sports betting. Just since March, four states and the capital have debuted sanctioned wagering. Since then, legalized betting has become available to 22.4 million more Americans.

Since May 2018, the public has combined to deliver more than $22 billion in handle, generating nearly $200 million in tax revenue for state and local governments.

Most have integrated online betting apps, which AGA research says “is a primary factor in drawing customers away from unregulated and dangerous operators.”

Other factors that could lead to increased conversion to legal markets include paid-out confidence bets, awareness of legal options and the simple desire to use a legal sportsbook.

Bettors anxious for major sports to return

It should come as no surprise that the majority of the public desperately misses major sports, which have been sidelined since mid-March.

A study from DraftKings examined the “perspectives and adaptations of modern fandom” as a result of COVID-19, and a whopping 78% of respondents said they were “willing to sacrifice traditional aspects of sports if it means a return to play.” This includes traditions such as tailgating and purchasing food and drinks at concession stands.

More than one in four Americans said they began following a new sport since the pandemic began. What’s more, 67% indicated that they would continue keeping tabs on these sports even after major sports return. Those new fields include esports (40%), international soccer (34%), MMA (32%), and golf and international baseball (31% each).

As for major sports, 64% of respondents look forward to the NBA’s return more than other leagues’. Some 48% eagerly await MLB. Both leagues will begin playing by month’s end, if all goes to plan.

The return of major sports is not lost on respondents, as 66% said it was important for them to do so before September, while 39% believe they are coming back too early.

“With over half of respondents having reported missing sports during the resultant hiatus, fans across the country are inarguably eager for the return of their favorite leagues and teams, albeit with largely adjusted expectations, as exemplified by our latest findings,” Matt Kalish, co-founder and president of DraftKings, said in a news release.

“By deepening our understanding of the American fan through data and leveraging the technology of our platform, we are better able to adjust and serve the new experience of sports fans throughout the US.”

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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is a longtime sports writer who has covered the high school, collegiate and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant has covered games and written features and columns surrounding prep sports, Linfield and Oregon State athletics, the Portland Trail Blazers and golf throughout his career.

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