On May 14 2018, the United States Supreme Court repealed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).

One year on, sports betting and wagering is now legal in 10 states. Many more states have similar bills in motion.

To mark the anniversary of the repeal, GlobalWebIndex and The Action Network have undertaken a bespoke research study to gauge current attitudes and behaviors when it comes to sports betting.

Our results show that there’s widespread interest among U.S. adults and, as sports betting enters the mainstream, there will be major opportunities for broadcasters, media companies, gambling companies and sports teams alike.

Huge support for legalization of sports betting

At a headline level, 75% of U.S. adults aged 21+ are in favor of legalization. This jumps to a further 90% among sports fans.

The prime audience for sports betting are overwhelmingly in favor, and almost half of sports fans say that they are more likely to place a bet than this time last year.

When it comes to the benefits that the legalization of sports betting in the U.S. will bring, the biggest belief among sports fans is that it will be good for the economy (55%). Meanwhile, almost half think it will make people more interested in sports, or that it will make sports more exciting.

Perhaps most significantly, 94% of sports fans think the legalization will bring at least one positive. Sports fans aren’t just in favor of betting for the sake of it, then; they think it will bring material benefits.

What would sports fans bet on?

92% of sports fans would place a bet on at least one of the top 20 U.S. sports or leagues that we tracked in our study.

Sports with most betting interest.

But it’s the NFL that tops the list of the sports and leagues that fans would place a bet on. Over 60% of sports fans (and over 85% of NFL fans) would place a bet on it.

Following closely behind are the NBA (58% of sports fans / 88% of NBA fans) and MLB (53% of sports fans / 81% of MLB fans).

eSports is an emerging area, and it’s noteworthy that 23% of sports fans would place a bet on eSports (rising to 86% among eSports fans).

Interestingly, more than a third would place a bet on horse-racing, despite only a quarter saying they are a fan of this sport. The more established and opportunistic nature of horse racing betting is a major contributor to this.

Sports fans are keenest to place a bet on the final result of a game (60%) but they’re open to player-specific bets too. The NBA overtakes the NFL for interest levels in player-specific wagering, with Kevin Durant being the most popular player.

What’s most striking is the sheer range of things that sports fans are interested in betting on.

Whether it’s total points in a game, total number of wins in a season or half-time results, well over a third of sports fans express interest in betting.

The diversity of potential bets is huge – underlining the opportunity for content and tools which could support this.

What motivates sports bettors?

It’s no surprise that people are most motivated by the potential financial gain; almost 6 in 10 sports fans would place a bet for the chance to make money.

Again, though, the range of potential reasons is a long and varied one. Over half would want to place bets for the sheer fun and excitement of it, while significant minorities would place bets to support their favorite teams (45%) or favorite players (37%).

Importantly, there are opportunities to engage people through the whole season.

When we asked what reasons might make sports fans more likely to place a bet, the top two were if their favorite team was doing well (giving multiple engagement touchpoints as seasons unfold) or if there was a particularly big and exciting game such as the Super Bowl (opening up further, one-off touchpoints).

Commercial opportunities

When asking sports fans about how betting influences their viewing behaviors, the opportunities for companies from a wide range of sectors becomes clear.

How betting can boost sports viewing.

6 in 10 sports fans are more likely to watch a game or competition on TV if they have a bet on it. 4 in 10 are more likely to follow the game via a sports app, with the same proportion being more likely to follow through live text online or via a gambling app.

In-play sports wagering is a huge part of this. Almost all sports fans (86%) would be willing to make bets as they watched a game or competition, and over three quarters are comfortable with betting being mentioned during a broadcast.

What’s more, while placing an in-person bet at a casino or physical sportsbook remains the most popular location to do this (51%), nearly 8 in 10 sports fans would consider placing a bet via an app or website.

Improving betting knowledge

To help people inform their betting choices, there’s a huge opportunity to provide them with information and content.

Currently, only half of sports fans think they have a good understanding of betting terminology and processes. And even among this group, fewer than half of them could correctly identify the meaning of terms like “parlay” and “half bet”.

This helps to explain why almost 90% of sports fans are interested in content that could help them refine and inform their betting choices, with live scores and odds (48%), picks from experts (46%), real-time odds movements / best line suggestions (44%) and articles that provide sports betting data and trends (40%) being the most popular.

There’s a healthy expressed appetite to pay for this content, too. Over 90% of those sports fans interested in original articles focused solely on the sports betting market say they would pay for them.

That said, we shouldn’t under-estimate the word-of-mouth effect and the importance of personal connections. Friends/family (45%) are felt to be the most likely people to influence a sports fan’s decisions, followed by professional gamblers/bettors (39%) and sports websites and apps (39%).

Just as importantly, a third of sports fans say they would be more likely to place a bet if their friends, family and coworkers were doing likewise. There’s power in the crowd.

The future of sports betting is mobile

GlobalWebIndex’s ongoing research in the U.S. shows that over 90% of online adults now have a smartphone. What’s more, mobiles are selected as the most important device for getting online, and the typical adult is spending almost 2.5 hours per day in front of their phone’s screen.

Against this context, it’s clear that sports wagering – with its real-time, on-the-go nature – is perfectly suited to mobiles. Little surprise, then, that over half of sports fans are interested in using a mobile app primarily focused on sports betting. Or that over a third say they have searched for ways to bet on their favorite sports through apps.

Worth noting is that almost 4 in 10 said they’d be more likely to place a bet if it were easier to do so. This is an area where online and app-based solutions are perfectly positioned to help.

Clearly, there’s a real opportunity to use mobiles to deliver educational content, to provide relevant information and to facilitate the placing of bets.

It’s already over half of sports fans who say they would feel very comfortable placing a bet on a mobile app. And just 10% say the prospect of this would make them feel very uncomfortable.

As in so many other areas, successfully harnessing mobile behaviors is key to driving future growth.

Notes on Methodology

This post draws on data from an April 2019 special GlobalWebIndex survey fielded in association with The Action Network. The survey interviewed 3,057 internet users in the U.S.A., including a sample of 1,055 sports fans aged 21-64 (defined as those who selected 8, 9 or 10 on a 0-10 scale indicating how much of a sports fan they are). Responses were received via mobile, tablet, laptop and desktop PC.

U.S. Attitudes to sports betting in 2019. Click to download the full report.


Written by

Jason is Chief Research Officer at GWI. He's the main man who leads our global team of analysts, delivering world-renowned research. He's an in-demand data junkie who you might see popping up on your telly screens every so often to show you what's actually happening in the lives of consumers.

You’ve read our blog, now see our platform

Every business has questions about its audiences, GWI has answers. Powered by consistent, global research, our platform is an on-demand window into their world.