Poll: Majority Favors Legal Sports Betting, But Nearly Half Say Wagering Would Hurt Game Integrity

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A new poll raises some questions about the morals of US sports bettors.

Seton Hall Sports Poll released abbreviated results of its most recent study, which polled Americans’ views on sports betting legislation. According to the poll, the majority of Americans now support legalization of sports betting. It reinforces the recent result from The Washington Post.

At the same time, however, a majority also feel that betting would negatively impact the integrity of those events.

The poll comes ahead of a decision in the US Supreme Court sports betting case about the federal ban outside of Nevada.

A strange response pair

Here are the two questions and answers that need to be examined in tandem:

About a third of respondents answered “Yes” to both questions.

Rick Gentile, who directed the poll, summed up the results like this: “A majority favors gambling, and by a slimmer margin think the games might be fixed as a result.”

Of course, that’s a terribly troubling stance if it represents the true views of the public.

“It’s outrageous when you think about it,” Gentile said. “It comes close to saying, ‘We don’t care about the legitimacy of the games, what matters is being able to bet on them.’”

The professional sports leagues might be particularly upset at the result of this poll. They’ve spent months visiting lawmakers across the country, warning about integrity concerns in an expanded market.

One of the main reasons to create a legal market to compete with the black market for sports betting is to help the integrity of games. There is no transparency or accountability on this front on the black market, where tens of billions are wagered each year.

Other poll responses

The Sharkey Institute has been running SHS sports betting polls for years now, but there were a couple new questions on this one.

One asked whether respondents thought the decision on legalization should be in the hands of individual states or the federal government. This question provided the most lopsided response on the board, with 62 percent of respondents answering “State control.” Only 27 percent answered “Federal control.”

Most respondents (49 percent) also feel that collegiate betting should be available alongside professional sports. A fair amount, though (36 percent) would prefer betting limited to the pros.

As we typically see with the results from SHS, there were some prevailing social threads in the results, too. Those most supportive of sports betting tend to be younger, male respondents of modest means and education.

The SHS phone poll included 736 respondents selected at random from across the country. The Sharkey Institute cites a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percent.