Americans Evenly Split On Question Of Legal Sports Betting, Overall
Legal Sports Report

New Poll On Sports Betting: Younger People More Likely To Support Legalization In US

Legal sports betting poll
New data from the Seton Hall Sports Poll shows that younger people are more likely to support the legalization of sports betting in the US. Meanwhile, a plurality — but not a majority — of respondents favored legalization.

The sports betting poll, at a glance

Americans are evenly split on how the US should handle sports betting moving forward.

Here is the question poll respondents — classified as “adults in the US” — were asked:

“It’s been said a lot of people bet on sporting events anyway, so government should allow it and tax it. It’s also been said legal betting on sporting events is a bad idea because it promotes too much gambling and damages the integrity of sports. Which comes closer to your view?”

The answer did not show overwhelming support for sports betting. In all, 46 percent said “allow it,” while 42 percent said it was a “bad idea.” The poll has a margin of error of four percentage points.

SHPS did point out that this was “a substantial increase” from a 2010 Fairleigh Dickinson poll. Then, 39 percent supported legal sports betting, while 54 percent were against it.

A poll last year by Seton Hall showed more support for sports betting.

Support for sports betting differs by age

Support for legal sports betting is greater among younger people. For respondents that were ages 18 to 29, two-thirds said the US should allow sports betting.

Support got lower the older the respondents were, down to 30 percent for those over the age of 60.

“If younger people carry those beliefs forward, and as they become lawmakers themselves, we could see a major shift in the legality of sports gambling,” said Rick Gentile, director of the poll.

Other sports betting questions

The entire poll focused on questions regarding sports betting. Similar to the main question above, the results show some support for sports betting, albeit not overwhelming:

  • Question: “A while ago NBA Commissioner Adam Silver reversed the league’s historical stance and advocated legalized betting on sporting events on a strictly regulated basis. Do you think it’s appropriate for the leader of a major professional sports league to take such a stance?” Result:  Yes, 34 percent. No, 51 percent.
  • Question: “A few years ago, New Jersey passed a law allowing for sports gambling in the state. The major sports leagues and the NCAA successfully lobbied for an injunction to block the law because they said gambling on sporting events damaged the integrity of the game. Do you think New Jersey should have been able to pass a law allowing sports betting in the state?” Result:  Yes, 47 percent. No, 39 percent.
  • Question: “Four states (Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon) are exempt from a federal law passed in 1992 that banned betting on sporting events. With which of the following statements do you agree?” Result: Leave law as it is, 18 percent; law should be changed so states can legalize it, 45 percent; sports betting should be banned in Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon, 23 percent.
  • Question: “Have you ever gambled on a sporting event?” Result: Yes, 31 percent. No, 66 percent. For those that answered “No,” would you bet if sports betting were legal? Yes, 13 percent. No, 80 percent.
  • Question: “If gambling on sporting events was legalized do you think it should be regulated on a state-by-state basis or by the federal government?” Result: 70 percent said it should be handled by the states, 21 percent by the federal government:

The last question is interesting, in that the commissioners of the NBA and Major League Baseball have expressed interested in a federal framework for sports betting.

Fantasy sports and the poll

There were also a few questions about daily fantasy sports in the poll.

Fifteen percent of respondents said they have played DFS. However, that number appears to be a bit suspect. Extrapolating those numbers to the larger US population would mean something like 47 million people had played DFS, a number that does not match reality. The total of all fantasy sports players (season-long included) for the US and Canada is estimated to be just under 60 million.

Poll respondents were also asked this: “Do you think participating in fantasy activities is a game of skill and therefore should be exempt from gambling laws or is it just another form of gambling?” Sixty-one percent said it is gambling, while 23 percent said it’s a game of skill.

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Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.