New Survey Shows Appetite for Sports Betting in the US

Woman filling out online survey
A recent survey about Americans’ views on legal sports betting revealed some interesting insights.

30-second summary

  • A new survey shows that 60% of Americans support legal sports betting
  • Only 42% support legalized betting on college sports
  • March Madness will be the largest sports betting event of all time in the US with bets worth $8.5bn

Insights from this survey

A survey conducted by the AP-NORC in March 2019 reveals the appetite that Americans have for legal sports betting. It shows that 60% of the respondents support legal sports betting but only 42% of people support legal betting on college sports events.

Most support for legal sports betting comes from sports. Naturally, people who believe that gambling is a serious problem are not very supportive of sports betting legalization in their states.

Since the federal ban on sports betting was ended in May 2018 by a Supreme Court decision, ten states have made sports betting legal. Another 30 states are considering doing so.

In states where sports betting is now legal, 71% favor of betting on professional sporting events, compared to 59% of people in states where sports betting is not legal. Only 47% and 42%, respectively, believe that sports betting on college events should be legal.

Betting patterns revealed

Most Americans do not really care about sports betting one way or another. However, there seems to be more of a desire to have sportsbooks in casinos rather than at sporting venues or through online platforms.

In terms of overall betting activity, 8% of Americans gamble occasionally at arenas or stadiums, about 10% place bets through an online platform, and 20% have made bets at a casino sportsbook.

The most popular form of gambling is casual. Betting in groups of friends or in offices is common among 32% of those who took part in the survey.

This survey was conducted March 14-18 through the University of Chicago’s probability-based panel. There were telephone and online interviews with 1,063 adults. The sampling error is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

Popularity of college sports betting

Although the survey showed some reluctance about college sports betting, it is still extremely popular. While the NCAA was the only major sports league that has not really embraced sports betting since the ending of the federal ban, huge sums bet on its games each week.

The Super Bowl is usually the most popular event to bet on in the United States each year, but the college basketball championship tournament (“March Madness”) is not far behind.

The American Gaming Association (AGA) estimates that as much as $8.5bn (£6.4bn) will be bet by as many as 47 million Americans in course of the tournament.

This is the first iteration of the tournament where sports betting is legal outside of Nevada. New Mexico, Mississippi, Delaware, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey also have sportsbooks operating this year.

The AGA believes that March Madness betting figures will even surpass those of the Super Bowl. The association says: “During this year’s tournament – the first in post-PASPA America – sports fans are expected to bet 40% more than they did on this year’s Super Bowl.”

A lot of major television networks such as Fox Sports and ESPN have launched daily shows dedicated to sports betting in recent weeks. This is in time for March Madness, which will only generate further betting hype.


Some parties are speaking against allowing college sports betting. One of those is the athletic director at Marshall University, Mike Hamrick. He believes that with the extent of sports betting and so many markets available to bet on, the lure for unpaid college players to fix games or shave points has never been higher.

He says: “It’s legal. And most athletic directors I’ve spoken with feel the same way… And as more states legalize sports gambling, it’ll affect more and more athletic directors.”

This is why he is trying to educate the athletes in the various programs at his university about the pitfalls of taking part in such corruption.

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