The full-court press that many legislators and sports betting supporters in several states put on over the last few months often included a common mantra: Legalized wagering will drive the masses away from the unregulated market.
There’s been a healthy share of skepticism regarding that from certain circles. However, a Nielsen Sports survey commissioned by the American Gaming Association (AGA) seems to lend a good deal of credence to that position.
The recently-conducted poll yielded several interesting pieces of information, including:
- 38 percent of bettors surveyed stated they’d completely switch to legal sportsbooks if given the opportunity.
- 33 percent of bettors stated they’d move at least part of their action to legal sportsbooks if given the opportunity.
- 29 percent of bettors surveyed earn a household income of greater than $100,000.
The survey was based on 1,000 adult sports fans and “self-identified bettors” from across the country. The wording of the questions implies they all resided in states that do not yet have legalized sports betting options.
Respondents affected by lack of information?
The numbers give sports betting advocates plenty of “told ya so” fodder. At the same time, consuming some of this data with a side helping of sodium granules is advisable to an extent.
- To begin with, if the assumption that respondents do not yet have any legal sportsbooks in their area is correct, then they’re essentially answering a purely hypothetical question. In such an instance, it’s easy and completely risk-free for someone to answer in the affirmative – after all, a legalized option is typically the most common-sense and socially accepted path in the overwhelming majority of life circumstances.
- However, the “surveyees” are responding to an abstract, non-existent scenario. That means they’re deprived of pertinent concrete information that, if available, could potentially influence their answer – namely, how would the legal option’s lines and fees measure up to the offshore oddsmaker or the neighborhood bookie?
For the novice and/or casual bettor without much skin in the game included in that 38 percent, their answer might well have been sincere. And ultimately, predictive.
Yet for those who typically have more action in play on any given night or NFL week – and those cited income figures imply there’s plenty who can afford to — their tune would likely change if faced with non-competitive lines from the local sportsbook.
Convenience, and for that matter, legality, be damned.
Competitive lines the X-factor in keeping legal options attractive
Yes, logic dictates that legal sports betting options will strive to remain as competitive as possible in a post-PASPA world. It’s basically a matter of survival, since every new state contains a population of bettors that’s become accustomed to placing their action with “black market” options. Regulated sportsbooks have a sales job on their hands, and enticing odds are integral to that mission.
However, take the recent case of FanDuel and DraftKings – the two “crossover” entrants in the sports betting space by way of the daily fantasy sports industry – as an example. Both quickly learned that whacky lines and the immediacy of social media make for a lethal combination when it comes to sports bettors. Especially when trying to make a good first impression:
- FanDuel SportsBook had a well-publicized snafu with its initial lines at its Meadowlands Racetrack location for the PGA 2018 WGC-Bridgestone tournament.
- Meanwhile, DraftKings Sportsbook got off to an inauspicious start with some out-of-whack MLB money lines and has continued to post lines with higher vig than competitors in New Jersey.
FanDuel quickly made good on its faux pas. However, any potential customer looking to try either of these operators out as a legalized option on those occasions may have quickly been driven back into the waiting, familiar arms of their unregulated source.
Early New Jersey returns support appeal of regulated sportsbooks
All that said, numbers by and large don’t lie. And to that end, early reports from New Jersey, which now has a full month of sports betting revenue data, are encouraging for legal sports betting advocates.
Garden State sports betting operators — which only totaled four for all but two days of the July reporting period — compiled close to $41 million in total handle. Those figures don’t include any mobile wagering whatsoever, as the aforementioned DraftKings SportsBook didn’t make its debut until August. It’s undeniably a solid start in just one of many jurisdictions that will offer regulated sports betting choices for its residents over the next several years.
If the pattern ends up repeating itself over time, then it turns out that these sports betting bills are far from a bill of goods.