BLOG | by Lance Fraenkel

US gambling liberalisation
– Do sports fans care?

  • Sports fans more likely to believe all gambling should be illegal

  • Golf, MLS and NHL fans most likely to favour gambling legalisation

This month’s Supreme Court ruling striking down law surrounding the prohibition of sports gambling is likely to lead to its swift introduction in a number of states.

With bookmakers from around the world licking their lips in anticipation, we thought we’d take a look at the attitudes of US sports fans to see just how ripe this new market is.

The first thing we looked at is whether sports fans believe all gambling – including on sport – should be illegal. The results are somewhat surprising.

Amongst the general population, one in five agreed that there should be an outright ban on betting. But, interestingly, sports fans were marginally more inclined to agree. MLS fans were most likely to want to see gambling remain illegal (26%), perhaps as a result of seeing, first-hand, the saturation of soccer by gambling companies in other parts of the world.  Followers of the PGA tour were also significantly more likely to agree with a ban, with only NFL fans being just as likely as the general population to support one.

But even allowing for the increased propensity of sports fans to approve of an outright ban, that still means that the majority support some level of legalised betting.

Fans of every sport we looked at were more likely to agree with the statement that ‘online gambling should be legal’. Those who came out most strongly in support were golf, NHL and MLS supporters – all of whom were at least 20% more likely to favour legalisation than the general public.

Fans of the sport with the lowest support for legalisation – MLB, with 48% in favour – are still more favourably disposed to liberalisation than the general public, of whom just 43% support the move.

So it looks like the majority of fans favour a more relaxed attitude towards the regulation of gambling – and that’s perhaps no surprise given the enormous success of fantasy leagues in recent years as a pre-cursor. But given the opportunities already afforded to Americans to gamble – in casinos, lotteries, online etc –  are sports fans any more likely to do so than the general public? Generally speaking and almost across the board, the answer is yes.

Whether it’s Powerball, scratch tickets, card games, slots, Mega Millions, bingo or an online gambling product, fans of every sport we looked at were just as or more likely to have played in the past 12 months than the general population. There was a single exception to this rule – MLS fans were slightly less likely to have bought a scratch ticket than the rest of us.

And what about disposal to gambling brands? Well, similarly, fans of every sport were more likely than the general public to be strongly positive about a string of resort/casinos we asked them about – from the Bellagio to the Mandalay Bay.

The American sports betting market, then, really does look like rich pickings for gambling companies – a big reason why in the UK, home of some of the biggest online gambling operators, share values jumped at the PASPA appeal. Major operator Paddy Power Betfair has already made a bid to buy FanDuel. We’ll be keeping a close eye on brand perceptions in the market especially if, as expected, gambling companies begin to eye up the US’s sports sponsorship opportunities too.

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Vice President, US
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Lance joined SMG Insight in 2017 as Vice President for North America. Having previously worked for YouGov, Lance has over ten years’ experience in the market research products industry, beginning as an analyst within the consumer division and advancing to the role of Head of Client Management for North America. Lance has successfully developed talent and led large cross-functional teams, consulting with a broad range of clients including Google, NBC, VISA, Bank of America, Omnicom Media Group and Twitter. Lance is a graduate of New York’s Cornell University.



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