AGA research: 79 percent of Americans want legal sports betting

Popularity Of Legal Sports Betting Grows As Super Bowl Sunday Approaches

Legal sports betting

The American Gaming Association (AGA) during this Super Bowl week released a short research report that shows overwhelming support for legal sports betting.

The survey posed four questions and response came back in favor of sports betting on all four points:

  • 79 percent want their own states to legalize sports betting, while 21 percent oppose.
  • 63 percent support the Supreme Court decision to strike down PASPA, while only 18 percent oppose.
  • 66 percent think sports betting should be left to state and tribal governments, while 17 percent oppose.
  • 55 percent think sports leagues should not get an integrity fee from the amount wagered on sports, while 23 percent support it.

Legal sports betting is popular across the US

Sara Slane, AGA senior vice president, said:

“The results of this research are overwhelmingly clear: consumers want legal sports betting, they believe it should be regulated by state and tribal governments and they don’t think the leagues should get a cut.”

The wave of support for sports betting is visible in the progress toward legalization. Eight states already offer sports betting and 25 states active or pre-filed sports betting bills this year.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that all states with bills will pass them. There is still strong opposition to sports betting in some corners. For example, NCAA President Mark Emmert expressed his opinion last week that sports betting brought a lot of risks.

The real risks lie in the black market

The AGA sees much more potential for an unregulated market to affect college athletics:

“Sports wagering is a multibillion dollar, sophisticated enterprise that, if left primarily in the shadows, will continue to threaten competition and bet integrity, tax law enforcement resources and perpetuate the vulnerability of athletes — particularly unpaid amateur athletes — to bad actors in the illegal market. Only by legalizing and regulating this popular American activity can we offer protection to competition, consumers and competitors, ensure that responsible sports wagering is properly regulated, and that those laws are enforced.”

The AGA’s long-held point is that sports betting is already widespread, but the money is going to corner bookies and unlicensed offshore operators.

In a separate press release that forecasts how much money will be wagered on this weekend’s Super Bowl, the AGA said 1.8 million Americans plan to bet illegally through a bookie, with millions more likely to bet illegally through offshore online books.

State politicians have a carrot and a stick

The AGA research gives politicians confidence to know that advocating legal sports betting is a popular move. It’s not only politically popular — bean counters in state treasuries love it as a means of enhancing tax receipts.

The minority that opposes sports betting might hold firm, but the AGA research allows the problem to be reframed.

It is not a choice between legal sports betting and no sports betting. It is a choice between safe, legal sports betting and unsafe illegal sports betting.

Back to Sara Slane:

“However, Americans will continue to bet illegally without access to safe, regulated alternatives. With sports betting legislation flooding state capitals across the country, legislators can pursue these opportunities knowing they have the support of their constituents. AGA will continue to advocate for the inclusion of sensible gaming policies wherever it is being considered, including consumer protections and reasonable tax rates that enable the legal, regulated market to compete with illegal bookies and offshore operators.”

Research on a national level

The AGA does not break its figures down state-by-state. That would be interesting because there quite likely are states where sports betting does not have a majority in support.

Meanwhile, the research offers useful information. Sports betting-supporting politicians can use it to convince their colleagues that voting for legalization is not just an appropriate thing to do, it’s a popular thing too.

The data on Americans’ support for the SCOTUS decision, opposition to an integrity fee, and preference for state and tribal regulation of sports betting comes from an AGA survey. It was conducted in September 2018 by the Mellman Group of 1,000 registered voters, split between online and phone respondents.

The data showing Americans’ support legalizing sports betting in their state comes from a survey of 1,020 registered voters conducted online by Heart and Mind Strategies between November and December 2018.

The question: “Regardless of what you may or may not know about the legal status of sports betting, do you support or oppose legal, regulated sports betting for adults 21+ years old in your state?”

Joss Wood
- Joss Wood, a former editor of Poker Industry Pro, has long focused on regulated online gambling issues and in particular the international market. For LegalSportsReport.com, Joss turns his attention primarily to regulated sports betting markets.With a degree in English from the University of Birmingham as well as a master’s degree in organisational development from the University of Manchester, Joss’s career has taken him from the British Army into the world of business and finance. For seven years he played poker professionally.
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