OZY Poll: Old-School Gambling Beats Out Fantasy Football

OZY Poll: Old-School Gambling Beats Out Fantasy Football

Why you should care

Because offline operation is the best hedge of all. 

When you think about sports betting, what image comes to mind? For some, it’s hordes of beer-soaked gentlemen tossing suds and winning tickets into the over-oxygenated Las Vegas casino air after a March Madness buzzer-beater swishes through the hoop while loser cohorts sit folded over, heads in hands. Anyone with an internet connection these days may think of virtual offshore sports books or the rapidly popularizing fantasy football craze.

Those situations may speak to many avid bettors, but none represents an accurate snapshot of the most popular form of sports gambling in this country. According to a new poll from OZY and SurveyMonkey:

The fact that the largest number of sports bets in the U.S. originate from age-old “I bet you won’t” banter is in stark contrast to the trending conversations dominating the topic. Most current news, particularly with regard to football, would have you believe that fantasy sports are the driving force behind the country’s gambling obsession.

But, according to our survey — it quizzed 1,726 adults ages 18 to 46 across the country, including 1,223 who identify as football fans or watch the Super Bowl — only 37 percent of respondents play season-long fantasy football. And 23 percent of respondents bet the point spreads via sports books, while a much smaller contingent (14 percent) gambles on daily fantasy football. (You can sift through the full results here.)

Big football fans are the most engaged in betting.

Erin Pinkus, research scientist, SurveyMonkey

What’s more, the rampant coverage of sports gambling — closely tied to the NFL and the state of New Jersey’s pending U.S. Supreme Court case to eradicate a 25-year federal ban on sports betting — might lead some to infer that the activity is more prevalent than is the case. In our survey, 83 percent of respondents say they don’t gamble at all. Of the 17 percent who do, 55 percent are willing to risk only up to $99 per week, and a mere 5 percent push the envelope to more than $1,000 per week.

Still, there’s no doubting that sports betting in America is influential. Our poll illustrates a wide “intensity gap” based on football gambling and love of the game. Thirty percent of folks who identify as “big fans” are gamblers. “Big football fans are the most engaged in betting of any sort — professional, college and fantasy football alike,” says Erin Pinkus, a SurveyMonkey research scientist who helped conduct the poll. “Across the board, they are twice as likely as casual football fans to bet in each of those categories.”

The NFL, NCAA and other major sports leagues oppose New Jersey’s case seeking Supreme Court approval of sports betting. But many insiders believe that the NFL and other sports have warmed to an idea that surely will increase revenues and ratings for leagues. Twenty-one percent of football fans — and 34 percent of big fans — reported that they would have more money in the game if gambling were legalized. At this point, the NFL is defending the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 simply to save face and appear invested in protecting the “integrity of the game.” With the Oakland Raiders headed to Las Vegas in 2019, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has stated that he needs to “make sure that there’s a fine line between team-sports gambling and the NFL.” In other words, Goodell is playing “bad cop.”

In 2011, 65 percent of New Jersey residents voted to ditch the federal ban. Last year, according to a national poll conducted by The Washington Post, 55 percent of respondents were in favor of sports betting with only 33 percent opposed. Today, most nonbettors simply greet the topic with a shrug. That’s a vast shift in public opinion of the once-scorned pastime.

The NFL knows that sports gambling is becoming the norm. But the action isn’t happening at the Borgata in Atlantic City or via Costa Rican wire transfers. For now, a simple text between friends will suffice.

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