North Carolina lawmakers can lean on American Gaming Association survey data that found that 77% of US residents favor the legalization of sports betting in their state.
The survey was released just a few days ahead of the fifth anniversary of the May 14, 2018, US Supreme Court ruling that invalidated the 26-year-old Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act that effectively granted Nevada a national monopoly on sports betting.
As for that ruling, the AGA survey said that 85% believe the Court made the right decision. That’s up significantly from the 63% that endorsed the ruling in 2019.
AGA Survey methodology
Heart+Mind Strategies conducted the online survey on behalf of the AGA between March 14-20, 2023, among a national 21+ sample of 1,066 general population adults and a sample of 1,005 sports bettors.
The data were weighted to approximate a target sample of adults based on age, race/ethnicity, gender and region. The overall margin of error is +/-3 percent. Sports bettors are defined as adults who have placed a traditional sports bet at a casino, online or with a bookie in the past 12 months.
Legal market cementing its place on bettors and lawmakers
The expansion of legal gambling in the US tends to follow a familiar pattern. At the first opportunity, whether it’s lotteries a half-century ago, casinos more than a generation ago or sports betting in 2018, the traditionally gambling-welcoming states strike first, a second wave of states follows and the rest of the country elects a more cautious route.
North Carolina sports betting, which, if legalized, could launch Jan. 8, 2024, comes when the nation has moved through the trepidatious early years to accept that legal sports betting, if done well, can be a viable resource for the state.
One of the selling points for legalization supporters has been the potential tax revenue. Per the AGA, 33 states have combined to gain $3 billion in tax revenue in almost five years from the $220 billion bet legally.
It is important to stress the legal market here because legal, regulated sportsbooks have become more appealing to gamblers than illegal, offshore betting sites. The AGA found that 77% of sports bets are now placed via legal sportsbooks, compared with just 44% in 2019.
Further, nearly half of the bettors (46%) who bet illegally plan to switch to legal operators in the next 12 months. By contrast, 90% of legal bettors plan to remain in the legal market into the following year.
Why the mass migration to the legal market?
Some of the main reasons cited in the poll for turning to legal markets were:
- confidence that bets will be paid out in the legal market (71%);
- trust in account security and availability of easier payment options (68%);
- information about responsible gaming resources (58%).
While sports betting legalization garners a lot of headlines, the AGA found that a modest 39.2 million American adults – out of more than 250 million – have placed a traditional sports wager in the last 12 months.
“American adults have always enjoyed betting on sports, and overwhelmingly value the ability to bring their action into a legal market, close to home,” AGA President and CEO Bill Miller said in a statement. “The rapid spread of legal sports betting – fueled by regulated, responsible entities – has contributed to communities and established consumer protections by migrating betting away from the illegal market monopoly that PASPA perpetuated.”
Uncertainty remains for many gamblers
AGA officials said poll results show a continued need for more consumer education.
For instance, 29% of American adults are still unsure about the legality of sports betting in their state.
Also, a remarkable 70% of sports bettors who still place most of their bets with illegal operators either thought their favorite offshore sites were legal or they inaccurately believed they were splitting their bets fairly evenly between legal sportsbooks and illegal operators.
More than one-third of mobile sports bettors said that offshore books’ odds being mentioned in major media outlets – still a common error even five years after the fall of PASPA – leads to false belief in the legitimacy of those sites. A high presence on search results for top betting sites and misleading statements by illegal operators on their websites is generating similar levels of confusion, the survey found.
“Five years post-PASPA, the AGA and our members continue to support responsibly expanding the legal market while cracking down on predatory illegal operators,” Miller said. “The regulated industry and our partners across the entire ecosystem – policymakers, law enforcement, regulators, leagues, media, technology providers and more – have made significant strides in our collaborative consumer education efforts since 2018, and we will continue to find new ways to enhance consumer protections as the market matures.”
More than half of Americans (57%) live in a total of 33 states and the District of Columbia, where sports betting is legal and sportsbooks are taking bets.
The necessity of further cracking down on illegal operators, AGA officials said, is needed because an estimated $700 million in potential annual tax revenue is lost to those operators.
What does this mean for the NC sports betting market?
First of all, this study indicates that if and when it legalizes sports betting, North Carolina will have more advantages than the pioneering states that waded into the market in the early post-PASPA days. For one, North Carolinians will benefit from an increased awareness of the dangers of the illegal market and a more well-grounded legal market in which to operate.
There are also lessons learned from other states about balancing gambling taxes with operator profits. Where states like Colorado and Virginia had to reverse course and change laws after seeing massive shortfalls in tax revenue because of promo deductions, North Carolina has devised a gradual release of sports betting promo deductions so operators can attract new customers in the short term while the state secures tax revenue in the long term.
On the other hand, the uncertainty many still feel when confronted with a high frequency of sports betting ads is a reminder that predatory marketing techniques in the illegal market still dominate online, and most people have no clear criteria by which to evaluate legal and illegal sites.
In the end, maybe the best analysis is that, in the words of Brooks & Dunn, we’ve still got a lot to learn.