Sports Betting Legalization as Polarizing as National Politics, New Poll Finds

Posted on: February 25, 2017, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: February 25, 2017, 10:52h.

Sports betting legalization is on the minds of many state politicians across the country, and gaming companies are licking their chops at the potential prospect of taking bets on pro and college sports.

sports betting legalization Donald Trump
America is split on Donald Trump’s presidency, and the public also can’t seem to make up its mind when it comes to sports betting legalization. (Image: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

But the topic of ending sports gambling prohibition in the United States and repealing the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) is about as polarizing of an endeavor as picking between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton for president.

According to a new poll conducted by Seton Hall University’s Sharkey Institute, 46 percent of Americans support legalization, while 42 percent said it would be a bad idea. Thirteen percent of respondents said they weren’t sure where they stood.

Passed in 1992, PASPA bars states from allowing sports betting markets to operate. Nevada, Montana, Delaware, and Oregon were granted exemptions from the federal statute due to already having some sort of sports gambling when the legislation was passed, but today only the Silver State takes full advantage of its immunity.

Polling Positives

Though the sports betting legalization research shows that Americans today are divided, the consensus should tilt in favor of ending the ban in the coming decades. That’s because Seton Hall found that 67 percent of those aged 18 to 29, and 48 percent of those 30 to 44, back legalization.

Just 30 percent of respondents over the age of 60 said PASPA should be repealed.

More positive news for those who would like to place a financial incentive on a sporting event without traveling to Nevada is the fact that the Seton Hall results show an opinion shift. A Fairleigh Dickinson University poll conducted seven years ago said just 39 percent of Americans wanted legalized gambling on athletics.

No Time Like Present

A former casino owner is now in the Oval Office, state legislatures are looking for quick and easy new tax revenue sources, and the public opinion is moving in favor of legalization. In the mind of American Gaming Association President Geoff Freeman, the time certainly seems ripe to end sports betting prohibition.

Talking with Yahoo Finance this week, Freeman said, “We have a perfect storm coming together. You have leagues, you have broadcasters, you have law enforcement, you have the casino industry. Everyone is acknowledging that we are better off having a regulated environment.”

President Trump addressed sports betting during the Super Bowl earlier this month. He said is willing to study it very carefully and get input from sports commissioners, casino companies, politicians, and anti-gambling groups.

With a Republican in the White House, and both chambers of Congress controlled by the GOP, it might seem slightly surprising to some that now might be the time to expand gambling nationwide. Conservatives are typically less inclined to pass so-called “sin” market legislation, but a pillar of their beliefs is also the notion of states’ rights.

PASPA has been criticized for allegedly violating the Tenth Amendment, the doctrine that says powers not explicitly reserved to the federal government in the Constitution are reserved for the states. As one might imagine, the Founding Fathers didn’t cover sports betting when they drafted the country’s blueprint in 1787.