A new Seton Hall poll conducted by the Sharkey Institute provides a good look at the general public’s perception of sports betting in the US.
Seton Hall has conducted its sports poll since 2006. Before the repeal of PASPA in May, the results were little more than a curiosity, and nothing approaching mainstream news.
In the new era of legal sports betting, that’s no longer the case. The poll was conducted via telephone (landline and mobile) from Nov. 26 to 28. The poll has a plus/minus error of 3.5 percent.
The 741 adult respondents were asked 15 multiple choice questions across three separate categories:
- Integrity and problem gambling
Several of the questions produced some interesting results. You can find the complete results of the poll here.
How many people bet on sports?
As much as people want to tell you that most people will bet on sports, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Only 33 percent of respondents affirmatively responded to placing a bet on a sporting event in their lifetime.
A later question asked: “Would you be more likely to bet on a sporting event if it was legal in your state?”
Roughly the same number of people who have wagered in the past answered yes (32 percent). Additionally, 66 percent said legal sports betting wouldn’t impact their betting habits.
What about sports pools and brackets?
The notion that, perhaps unbeknownst to them, people bet on sports in some way, shape or form is thoroughly debunked in the poll.
When asked if they’ve ever filled out an NCAA bracket or Super Bowl squares, the vast majority of respondents said no.
Have you ever participated in a Super Bowl pool involving money?
- Yes (39 percent)
- No (61 percent)
- Don’t know/No opinion (1 percent)
Have you ever filled out brackets for the NCAA basketball tournament for cash prizes?
- Yes (17 percent)
- No (83 percent)
- Don’t know/No opinion (0 percent)
When asked how closely they follow sports, it broke down roughly the same as participating in a Super Bowl pool, with 59 percent said they follow sports “very closely” (20 percent) or “somewhat closely” (39 percent), and 42 percent saying “not closely” (16 percent) or “not at all” (26 percent).
The belief that millions of people who don’t follow sports–and millions more who do but can’t be bothered to fill out an NCAA pool–are suddenly going to become avid sports bettors seems farfetched.
As I’ve posited in the past, sports betting will likely increase the engagement level of existing fans. It doesn’t necessarily create new sports fans or change the way most people consume sports.
Yes or no to legal sports betting
The first block of questions focused on people’s sentiments in regards to legal sports betting. Interestingly, a plurality of respondents was ambivalent about the decision.
The Supreme Court recently ruled that betting on sporting events could be declared legal by individual states. Do you approve of this ruling, disapprove or do you have no opinion?
- Approve (40 percent)
- Disapprove (16 percent)
- Don’t know/No opinion (44 percent)
However, when the poll drilled down on whether or not sports betting should be allowed, 54 percent were in favor with 36 percent opposing.
Keep your government hands off my sports betting
When asked if gambling on sports should be regulated on a state-to-state basis or by the federal government, respondents made it abundantly clear: sports betting should be dealt with at the state level.
Nearly two-thirds of respondents said the determination should be left up to the states, with just 26 percent suggesting federal oversight is the way to go. Nine percent of respondents either didn’t know or didn’t care.
As a whole, these results point to a general distaste for the basis of PASPA (the federal government usurping the rights of states) even amongst people who are anti-gambling.
With sports betting and online gambling being discussed at the federal level, these results shouldn’t be overlooked. Even when people are opposed to a particular form of gambling (36 percent oppose sports betting), a significant percentage aren’t interested in federal oversight.
Integrity and problem gambling
The poll contained just a single question related to problem gambling, with results split almost perfectly down the middle.
Tell me whether you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree with the following statement: Legalized sports gambling is creating a compulsive gambling problem in this country.
- Strongly agree (22 percent)
- Somewhat agree (21 percent)
- Somewhat disagree (29 percent)
- Strongly disagree (24 percent)
- Don’t know/No opinion (5 percent)
The fact of the matter is, it’s just too early to know what if any impact legal sports betting is having with regards to problem gambling.
What we do know is this, the legislation that has passed thus far has been woefully inadequate when it comes to problem gambling funding and research.
The leagues are winning on messaging
Professional sports leagues have been fighting for an integrity/royalty/data fee at the state and federal level. One of the arguments put forth says legal sports betting is placing new pressures on the leagues with regards to integrity monitoring.
Sportsbooks and industry pundits have countered this by rightly pointing out that unregulated, offshore sports betting is far more problematic from a game integrity standpoint.
Wallach says, "there is absolutely no doubt" leagues will incur a significant cost burden because of legal sports betting. Again, how does moving a current market from illegal to legal and regulated increase your integrity monitoring cost?
— Steve Ruddock (@SteveRuddock) July 14, 2018
Art Manteris, vice president of race and sport for Station Casinos, said during a panel discussion at NCLGS this summer: “They’re saying pay us x-percent and we’ll provide integrity. So if they don’t get paid, will they not provide integrity?”
Along the same lines, the argument raises the question, have they not been monitoring game integrity when billions of dollars are being wagered at offshore sites and through illegal bookies?
Based on the Seton Hall poll, the leagues appear to be winning the messaging war.
Do you believe legal betting on sports events leads to cheating or fixing games?
- Yes (61 percent)
- No (33 percent)
- Don’t know/No opinion (6 percent)
Three other interesting tidbits
Is betting on sporting events legal in the state in which you reside?
- Yes (15 percent)
- No (33 percent)
- Don’t know (52 percent)
That seems like a pretty straightforward question. However, note the 52 percent of people “don’t know” if sports betting is legal where they live. That continues the theme that most people don’t care about sports betting.
Have you ever wagered money on a daily fantasy website like DraftKings or FanDuel?
- Yes (3 percent)
- No (97 percent)
- Don’t know/No opinion (0 percent)
It may not seem like a large number, but 3 percent of the adult population is a lot of people, roughly 7.5 million. Couple that with DraftKings CEO Jason Robins recently saying 40 percent of the company’s DFS customers in New Jersey have placed a sports bet. You then start to see the advantage DFS companies have in the US sports betting space.
Do you think you would be more likely to gamble on sports if you were able to place a bet using your cell phone as opposed to going to a casino or gambling parlor?
- Yes (40 percent)
- No (57 percent)
- Don’t know/No opinion (3 percent)
To put it simply, plenty of people want to shop, watch TV and movies and bet online.