New AGA poll finds NFL fans support sports betting

April 5, 2017 8:23 PM
  • Aaron Stanley
April 5, 2017 8:23 PM
  • Aaron Stanley

The fan bases of 30 of the National Football League’s 32 teams support changing federal law to allow individual states to decide for themselves on the question of legalized sports betting, according to a poll released Wednesday morning by the American Gaming Association.

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The poll, conducted by Morning Consult, surveyed more than 45,000 NFL fans on their views toward sports betting as a public policy issue and broke down the numbers by market.

Arizona Cardinals fans were the most likely to support a repeal of the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which effectively banned betting on sports outside of Nevada. 44 percent of Cardinals supporters said they “favor, strongly” changing the federal law while another 23 percent said they “favor, not strongly.”

Additionally, 69 percent of Arizona fans said that it was either “likely” or “somewhat likely” that regulating and taxing sports betting would generate new revenue for public safety and education programs.

“Cardinals fans overwhelmingly recognize the federal ban on sports betting has failed. They support lifting the federal ban on sports betting because they believe a legalized, regulated market will generate vital tax revenue, increase fan interest in games and make betting safe for consumers,” said Geoff Freeman, AGA president and CEO.

Seattle Seahawks fans were the least likely to support PASPA repeal, with 22 percent of respondents saying they were strongly in favor and 26 percent saying they are in favor but not strongly. 35 percent of Seattle fans said they either didn’t know or had no opinion on the issue.

Opposition was strongest among the Houston and Tampa Bay fan bases, 20 and 19 percent of whom opposed giving states the option to legalize sports betting, respectively.

The AGA is gearing up to mount a lobbying and advocacy push urging Congress to repeal PASPA and punt the sports betting issue to the states.

“With the grassroots support of fans across the country, our campaign to lift the sports betting ban is gaining the momentum we need to push across the goal line in Washington,” said Freeman.

The major opponent in this effort has been the NFL, notes Daniel Wallach, a sports law expert with Becker & Poliakoff in Miami. He reckoned that the AGA poll was finely aimed at moving the needle on the league’s opposition into either the neutral or support category.

“They are refining the message to serve as a constant reminder that the NFL’s own customers want this product,” he said. “They’re not preaching to the choir, they’re trying to change votes and persuade the holdouts that this is something their own customer base wants to see.”

Among the average NFL fan base, 26.8 percent favored strongly PASPA repeal, 27.1 percent said they were in favor but not strongly, 17.1 percent were in opposition and 29 percent didn’t know or had no opinion.

64 percent of those surveyed reported that they didn’t know, had no opinion or were either in favor or opposition to PASPA repeal but did not feel strongly about their position, suggesting that two-thirds of the NFL fan base has a rather ambivalent view of the issue.

Jeff Ifrah of Ifrah Law in Washington, DC, suggests that those figures could be due to general millennial antipathy towards government regulation and said that neutrality on this issue isn’t necessarily an impediment

“Some of that could be a reflection of the fact that it’s not that difficult to bet on sports right now,” he said.

Ifrah was also quick to point out that while bringing the NFL on board will be a “necessary milepost,” it by no means clears an easy path forward for PASPA repeal.

“[The NFL] needs to be dealt with, and I applaud the AGA for investing the resources, but it’s not going to be the last stand – it’s not the last roadblock to repealing PASPA,” he said.

“The opposition to PASPA is not just based on fears of sports integrity issues and appealing to fan bases. There are long-held fears and concerns, and those really can’t be ignored or put to the side in order to deal with NFL opposition,” Ifrah continued. “I think there’s an impression out there that the NFL can move any mile post it wants to, I’m not sure if that’s true.”