The North Carolina Legislature is currently chewing on legislation for sports betting over the internet, and fresh survey data from a local university sheds some light on the appetite for wagering.
A survey of adults in the state found that 32% of people would participate in a legal sports betting industry. That would be around 1.9 million adults. Among that group, bet sizes would vary. A majority (60%) responded that they’d “gamble” $50 a week or less. Gamble is a vague term here, because it could mean expected or self-imposed maximum losses — what is sometimes called “spend” — for some people instead of anticipated total monetary risk, i.e. handle, regardless of the outcome of the wagers.
That said, sports bettors don’t typically expect to lose their wagers, though precise sentiments on this topic obviously can vary. Sports betting is considered to have a skill component. The poll didn’t touch on this.
The question posed to survey respondents was: “How much money per week would you gamble on sporting events if it became legal in North Carolina?” It’s worth noting that it isn’t uncommon for many people to underestimate their gambling activity or anticipated gambling activity.
The poll found that 29% of the likely sports bettors see themselves gambling $51 to $100 per week. About 7% anticipate $101 to $250, and 5% would gamble at least $250 each week. The poll also found that 2.5% of people who would bet on sports expect to gamble at least $1,000 per week.
That would be around 50,000 North Carolinians potentially spending more than $4,000 each month on sports betting. This high-stakes activity could increase over time as betting becomes more accepted.
The $4,000 worth of gambling in a month for a small minority of players could shed light on Caesars Sportsbook’s recent decision to run a massive $5,000 bonus bet promotion, by far the largest of its kind to date. Caesars is likely targeting that roughly 2-3% of players.
Support is iffy among residents
Single-game sports betting over the internet isn’t particularly popular in North Carolina, despite its already existing as an industry in neighboring Tennessee and Virginia.
The July 28-Aug. 5 poll by East Carolina University’s Center for Survey Research found that 54% approve of statewide sports gambling, with 46% disapproving. This data could be off +/- 4.1 percentage points, ECU said. So, at best roughly 60-40, at worst roughly 50-50.
Roughly 50-50 makes sports betting a polarizing issue on paper, but it’s not one you typically see people protesting about one way or the other. However, it is a passionate issue for those concerned about addiction. Nearly 75% of those polled reported they were either extremely concerned or somewhat concerned that legalized sports betting would lead to higher rates of gambling addiction (37% extremely concerned and 37% somewhat concerned). About a quarter said they were not at all concerned.
The poll found that sports betting over the internet is supported far more by the 18-to-44 age group, with 70% expressing support. Forty-three percent of people 45 and older support legalization of online sports betting. It is worth noting that North Carolina would likely legalize online sports betting for people age 21 and over.
A potential problem for policymakers looking to authorize the activity is that voters are less likely to support it than non-voters. Among 2020 voters, just 47% approve and 53% approve. Among non-voters, support is significantly higher, with 66% approving and only 34% disapproving. This data does seem to mesh with the much stronger support among younger adults, who typically vote at a lower rate.
“These results suggest that legalized sports betting has public support from the overall adult population in North Carolina,” said Peter Francia, director of the ECU Center for Survey Research. “However, it is also worth noting those who voted in the last election were more likely to disapprove than to approve of legalized sports gambling, which complicates the political considerations for North Carolina legislators.”
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