November 2, 2016
By David Purdum
Americans remain divided on the issue of expanding legal sports betting, according to a national survey released Wednesday by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind research center.
The survey found that 48 percent of respondents favor changing federal law to allow states to offer legal sports betting, while 39 percent are opposed.
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 prohibits state-sponsored sports betting in all but a handful of states. Nevada is the only state allowed to offer wagering on single events, the most popular form of sports betting. Delaware operates a sports-betting parlay scheme through its state lottery.
Those in support of expanded legalization reasoned that people are already betting on sports and pointed to potential revenue for states. The survey found that 60 percent of respondents under 35 years old favor changing the federal law. Eighty percent of respondents in that age demographic said they had bet on sports informally in the past 12 months.
“Betting on sports does not have an access issue for anyone in the United States,” Donald Hoover, a senior lecturer at Fairleigh Dickinson University, said in a release coinciding with the survey. “Most of the sports betting in U.S. is fairly easy to do but happens in the shadows and in violation of federal law.”
Opponents were most concerned that legalization would foster gambling and change the perception that the games are fair.
“The public is divided on this issue, and it looks like the reasons behind the division stem from the age-old difficulty of reconciling the competing pulls of money and morality,” Krista Jenkins, a professor of political science and director of PublicMind, added in the release. “People are clearly worried about the effects of gambling on individuals and their families, but also aware of the benefits that come from more money for the state from something that people are already doing.”
Fairleigh Dickinson conducted a similar poll in 2012, when 51 percent of respondents said they believed the federal government should allow more states to offer sports betting.
This year, more than 1,000 adults were polled over the phone from Sept. 28 to Oct. 2, and results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points, according to PublicMind, the university’s survey research center.