If legalized, nationwide sports betting was up to a public vote, turns out it would pass. A new poll from the Washington Post suggests the tide is turning.

For the first time, more people in this country want sports betting than don’t. Moreover, the paper found one in every five people polled placed sports wagers during the last five years.

Washington Post teamed with UMass Lowell for gambling poll

The Post partnered with the University of Massachusetts at Lowell for the study. New Jersey’s upcoming appeal to the Supreme Court regarding sports betting spurned the poll.

The results were an interesting flip of the script from similar questions asked in 1993 when the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was newly in effect.

This new poll surveyed 1,000 people about their sports habits beyond just wagering, however. Questions broached a number of topics, including:

  • Which sports people watched
  • Whether or not people considered themselves sports fans
  • Opinions on concussion and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)
  • What age children should play tackle football
  • Paying college athletes
  • Sports betting opinions and habits
  • The impact of political events entering the sports world
  • Fantasy sports play amongst fans

Politics turning people off from sports

Sports betting was not the only timely subject matter of the research, either. The Post published results just days after a memorable weekend in the National Football League (NFL) during which the teams reacted to President Donald Trump’s comments that players who protest during the anthem deserved to be fired.

It is worth noting the single-biggest reason people are losing interest in sports per the poll are these political protests. The constant conversation about players making political gestures resulted in 24 percent of people polled to be less involved in sports. A majority of those polled also said the excessive head trauma games like football put players through are a problem.

Fantasy and wagering improves the sports-watching experience

However, one thing seems to improve the sports-viewing experience quite a bit. Of the 21 percent of people polled who place sports bets, 73 percent say the betting makes watching sporting events more enjoyable.

A similar percentage of fans also participated in either season-long fantasy or daily fantasy sports (DFS). A total of 16 percent played in season-long leagues, while 23 percent played some form of DFS. Of those groups, roughly half watched more sports as a result of their fantasy participation.

Before you observe similar numbers between bettors and DFS, do remember the fantasy industry insists what they offer is not gambling. However, given the phrasing of the questions in the poll, there is no clarification that the two entities are different. So, it is possible those answering about sports wagering could be including DFS activity in their wagering activity.

Geoff Freeman, president of the American Gaming Association (AGA), commented on the blurry line between DFS and sports betting to the Post:

“It begs a lot of questions for people. I heard it from owners in sports, I heard it from fans, I heard it across the board: What’s the difference between this and betting on sports? The simple answer is, there isn’t a big one.”

Nation’s opinion on legal sports betting flipped compared to 1993

The poll also included results from a similar questionairre conducted in 1993, one year after the passage of PASPA. At that time, 56 percent of people were against legal sports betting, while only 41 percent were in favor of it.

Conversely, today 55 percent of all people polled, not just sports fans, supported legalized sports betting. Only 33 percent disapproved, while another 12 percent had no opinion. Per the Washington Post, this is the first time a majority of people in a national poll have been on sports betting’s side.

Popular opinion will not play much of a role in the upcoming SCOTUS case. Nonetheless, it does indicate a serious changing tide when it comes to public support for widespread sports wagering.

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Jessica Welman

About

Jessica Welman is a longtime member of the poker media and online gambling world. She has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the managing editor for WSOP.com. Welman has been involved for livestreams for the WSOP and WPT and worked as a consultant on many other poker productions. She can be found on Twitter @jesswelman.