The majority of Americans are in favor of betting on games legally, according to a new sports betting poll by Seton Hall University’s Sharkey Institute, although most respondents also believed a regulated betting market would impact the integrity of sports events.

sports betting poll

It’s believed that billions of dollars are bet by Americans on the Super Bowl each year, dwarfing figures taken in the legal sports books of Nevada. Far from promoting corruption, legal sports books would help regulatory bodies detect suspicious betting patterns that might point to match-fixing. (Image: CNN International)

Some 55 percent of Americans said they were in favor of sports betting, while 35 percent were opposed and 10 percent did not know. The figures tally closely with a Washington Post poll conducted last year.

The new poll found that support for regulation was significantly higher among the younger generation. Some 68 percent were in favor among the 18-29 age group, which fell to just 37 percent for those aged 60 and above.

Meanwhile, 48 percent of all respondents said they thought sports betting would jeopardize the integrity of the games. Some 42 percent disagreed and 10 percent, again, didn’t know.

Sports Petting Poll Points to Unsettling Conclusion

Director of the poll Rick Gentile said the findings make for uncomfortable reading because they suggested people don’t care about integrity.

It’s outrageous when you think about it,” said Gentile, a former executive producer and senior vice president of CBS Sports. “It comes close to saying ‘We don’t care about the legitimacy of the games, what matters is being able to bet on them.’ A majority favors gambling, and by a slimmer margin think the games might be fixed as a result.”

The American Gaming Association estimates that US citizens illegally wager around $150 billion on US sports annually, while another study estimates that Americans bet about $500 billion worldwide on sports each year. These figures dwarf the $250 million in revenue generated by Nevada’s regulated sports books in 2017, which itself was an all-time record.

Regulation Will Promote Integrity

The NBA and the MLB – for decades fiercely opposed to legal sports betting – now say they would support a regulated market, but only on their terms.

The leagues are trying to convince lawmakers to impose a one percent “integrity fee” on all bets taken on their games if the market opens up, but many feel that integrity monitoring should be conducted by state regulators and that the leagues’ fee is little more than an onerous royalty charge.

Far from jeopardizing integrity, a regulated market would make match-fixing much easier to detect, as legalized sports books would be required to monitor and report suspicious betting patterns, while taking revenues away from the black market.

The US Supreme Court is expected any day now to deliver its decision on whether the Professional and Amateur Sports Protect Act (PASPA) is unconstitutional and should be repealed. The act prohibits states from legalizing and regulated sports betting within their borders, even though it is legal in Nevada and a handful of other states.

Industry observers expect the court to strike down PASPA.