May 26, 2023 - Sports

Survey: Over half of college-age Americans bet on sports

Illustration of a slot machine featuring a basketball, baseball and football, ending in three dollar signs.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

More than half of college-age Americans are betting on sports, including two-thirds of those living on college campuses, per survey results released Wednesday by the NCAA.

By the numbers: The survey, commissioned by new NCAA president Charlie Baker and conducted last month, polled 3,527 people in the U.S. aged 18-22.

  • 58% of respondents have participated in at least one sports betting activity, which includes both daily and season-long fantasy sports.
  • 67% of on-campus students have bet on sports, and 63% recall seeing advertising for sportsbooks, which the NCAA notes is higher than the general population's rate.

State of play: As legal sports betting surges nationwide, the NCAA wants to "better understand what student-athletes are experiencing on their campuses … so we can best help them deal with [its] potentially disruptive dynamic," Baker said Wednesday.

The backdrop: This survey comes in the wake of three recent college sports betting scandals, illustrating why Baker is so keen to get a better grasp of the environment.

  • Alabama baseball coach Brad Bohannon was fired earlier this month amid an investigation into potential match-fixing.
  • Over 40 athletes at Iowa and Iowa State are under investigation for violating NCAA gambling rules, which prohibit athletes from betting on any sports — college or pro — in which the NCAA conducts a championship.
  • It doesn't appear those athletes engaged in match-fixing, but beyond breaking the rules, some of them may have broken the law: Iowa is among the 27 states where you must be at least 21 to legally wager on sports.

What to watch: The NCAA said it will conduct an athlete-only survey later this year — the first since 2016, two years before the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act's repeal paved the way for legal sports betting. At that time, 24% of male athletes and 5% of female athletes said they wagered on sports. Something tells me the updated numbers will be slightly higher.

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