Q&A of the Day – Sports Fans vs. Sports Bettors 

Q&A of the Day – Sports Fans vs. Sports Bettors 

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods.   

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com  

Social: @brianmuddradio    

iHeartRadio: Use the Talkback feature – the microphone button on our station’s page in the iHeart app.    

Today’s Entry: Today’s entry came about as part of a conversation with Real Radio & The Gambler’s Greek. In the context of the conversation you might say The Greek was taking the over on the proliferation of sports betting while I was taking the under.  

Bottom Line: Wednesday, on the cusp of the start of the NCAA tournament, and with the bankruptcy filing of the company behind Bally Sports broadcasts, The Greek and I were having a spirited discussion about the role sports betting plays in creating interest in sports. And more specifically to the Bally Sports bankruptcy this week, the largest regional sports broadcaster in the country, how many people only really watch sports because they’re betting it? How many are really just fans of the sports they watch and the teams they follow? If there were a line on the role sports betting plays, you might say that Greek took the over, while I took the under. So, what about sports betting? Whether it’s friendly wagers or hard-core betting with sports books we have answers based on the most comprehensive research conducted on the topic to date from the Pew Research Center but first a little background about where we stand in Florida on the issue.  

With the proliferation of sports betting services, on the back of the Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling enabling states to legalize sports betting, we’ve seen a total of 35 states and Washington D.C. enable it. Of course, in Florida, two years ago Governor DeSantis struck a deal with the Seminole Tribe on a plan to amend the existing Seminole Compact which grants the tribe exclusivity on gambling within the state. The legislature ratified it, and the Seminoles actually began operating a sports betting service in November of 2021, prior to the courts shutting it down. This was due to a 2018 constitutional amendment in which many Floridians who were supportive of sports betting were duped into voting for the amendment, which in effect banned sports betting in Florida. This requires another constitutional amendment to overturn it. Draft Kings and Fan Duel failed in their effort to get it on our ballots last year and are currently working on doing so for next year. That takes us to the data on who and how many people are really putting money on sports. What percentage of adults do you think watch sports? What percentage of adults do you think place stakes on them?   

Let’s start with how many people are fans and watch at least one sport. A new study found 70% of adults fall into this category. That’s comprised of 81% of men and 60% of women. Among those fans you of course have various levels. 21% of adults are considered “avid” fans or those who incorporate sports as part of their everyday life. An additional 26% are “involved” meaning they follow sports multiple times weekly. Then you get into casual fans, or those some might refer to as “fair weather fans” - they’re the remaining 26%. It is interesting to note that there are more casual fans than avid fans. One might imagine casual fans aren’t going to be inclined to put their money on the line. And almost necessarily by the way this study was designed, those who’re avid sports bettors are going to be avid sports fans. So now that we know a bit more about who sports fans are...let's look at who sports bettors happen to be. 

Like the various categories of sports fans, we have various categories of sports bettors. The first and the largest are those who tend to play with stakes twice a year...the Super Bowl and right now during the NCAA tournament. Here’s what we know

  • The total percentage of people who’ve put stakes on sports in any capacity over the past year: 19% 

The most common way people play with stakes is with friends or family – 15% will play at least one “friendly” bet during the year. But then again, it’s only 15%. That really helps show the relatively small universe of even casual sports bettors out there. As for the potentially avid ones? 

  • 8% have bet at a casino, racetrack or betting kiosk 
  • 6% have bet online (most commonly through an app) 

By the time you boil it down to those who regularly bet sports, the number shrinks to about 4% of adults. So, while the NCAA tournament that’s underway brings out the betting among those who’re inclined to do so, it’s still not even a fifth of people who’re playing for money and only about a fifth of those who would likely be betting today if the tournament weren’t taking place. Tonight, FAU will tip off against Memphis in the first round of the NCAA tournament in their first visit to the NCAA’s in 21 years. How many South Floridians will be watching or are at least interested in the outcome of the game? How many have bet on it? The universe of sports fans, at least casual ones, remains large. The universe of sports bettors, even casual ones, remains rather small.  

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