Feb 2, 2019 - Sports

Americans think legalized sports betting will hurt integrity of the game

Data: SurveyMonkey poll of 2,506 U.S. adults conducted Jan. 24–28, 2019 with a margin of error of ±3 percent. Poll methodology; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

More Americans see the spread of legalized sports gambling as hurting, rather than helping, the integrity of professional athletics, according to an Axios/SurveyMonkey poll.

Why it matters: That runs counter to the leagues' argument that as sports betting gains ground, officials will need to ensure the rules are being followed and the right calls are made. That, leagues say, will increase the overall integrity of the leagues.

  • This is also why leagues are asking to be paid a cut of all bets wagered as an "integrity fee," since they're going to have to monitor their sports more closely.
  • Flashback: Just this week NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had to come out and explain a controversial missed call during the Rams-Saints NFC Championship game: "Our officials are human...And they're not going to get it right every time...We have worked very hard to bring technology in to try and make sure we can do whatever's possible to address those issues. But technology's not going to solve all those issues. The game is not officiated by robots."

Yes, but: Even people who have placed wagers see sports betting as more of a threat, rather than a boost, to the industry's integrity — 17% of those who said sports betting will be negative for pro sports have said they're interested in partaking.

Driving the market: Sports betting hasn’t taken over America yet — 75% of people polled said they have never bet on a professional sporting event. But there appears to be room to grow in the budding industry. Of those who haven’t bet on a sport before, 38% said they were interested in trying.

  • People across education levels and income brackets participate in sports betting at about the same rate, survey results show.
  • Over one-third of men place bets on professional sports, double the rate of women.
  • People of color participate more in sports betting (24%) than white people do (13%).
  • Just 6% of people older than 65 are interested in sports betting, but otherwise there is little variance across age groups.

What’s next: Streaming services may have a leg-up on network or cable TV in winning over sports betting fans if they offer more discussions of sports betting during broadcasts. More than twice as many people who watch sports on streaming platforms say they want to see more discussion of sports betting during broadcasts.

Methodology: The survey was conducted January 24-28, 2019 among 2,506 U.S. adults aged 18 and up with a margin of error of 3.0 percentage points. Data have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography. Full crosstabs are available here.

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