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Ipsos released new polling ahead of the Super Bowl, the largest sporting event and biggest gambling moment on the American calendar, which finds that in the wild west of sports gambling, the industry is growing largely with a very engaged group of sports bettors who tend to be younger, men, or white. This report is the first in a series of polls from Ipsos examining American attitudes toward and participation in sports, gambling, and athletics broadly.

Despite the explosive growth in gambling revenue, rising from $1.55 billion in 2020 to $4.33 billion in 2021, a very small number of Americans are responsible for that number. Ipsos found that only about 8% of Americans say they’ve bet on sports via an app or online, and only 4% have bet on sports in-person in the past year.

“As the dollar spent on bets suggests, those who do bet on sports are very engaged in the sporting world. Compared to the general public, they are more likely to self-describe as sports fans, play fantasy sports, go to live sporting events, and watch more niche types of sports, like esports,” Chris Jackson, Senior Vice President at Ipsos, said.

Football and basketball are the most popular sports to gamble on, with bettors preferring professional sports to college sports. The NFL is by far the most popular sports league to gamble on, with 59% of bettors placing a bet on the NFL. This is followed by the NBA (34%), NCAA Football (30%), and NCAA Basketball (28%). Unsurprisingly, majorities of sports bettors tuned into major sporting events last year, like the Super Bowl or March Madness.

The polling also shows that sports bettors are more likely to be men (68%), under the age of 35 (39%), white (51%), or high-income earners (44% make over $110k).

While a small group of people is extremely engaged with sports gambling, most Americans are not tuned into the debate over legalization and display ambivalence toward the issue. Overall, only one in three Americans want to allow in-person or app-based sports betting in their state, and another one in three don’t have an opinion. In fact, the only group not ambivalent about allowing sports betting seems to be the group actively participating – sports bettors themselves.

The polling also shows that money is the main reason people do not bet on sports. When asked to select any and all reasons they do not bet on sports, half of the people who don’t bet on sports choose not to because they believe it is a waste of money. Non-bettors are also deterred from participating because they don’t know enough about sports or about betting to partake.

“While some segments of the population remain intractable, there are non-betting Americans who don’t partake because they just don’t know enough about gambling. This provides a potential new group for the industry to expand into and is likely where advertising dollars are being spent by sportsbook operators to attract new customers,” Mallory Newall, Vice President at Ipsos, said.