A new study by the American Gaming Association found that Americans understand that they should be betting at legal sportsbooks, but don’t always know exactly which sites are legitimate.

AGA sports betting study
The American Gaming Association says gamblers are moving to legal sports betting sites – though they aren’t always sure which ones are actually regulated. (Image: Priscilla De La Rosa/Montclair State)

74% of bettors told the AGA that it is important to only wager through legal, regulated sports betting providers.

AGA: Illegal Sites Prey on Confused Gamblers

Despite that fact, 52% of sports bettors wagered with an illegal operator at some time during 2019. The AGA research found that confusion was a major factor in that contradiction. Fifty-five percent of customers who typically bet with illegal operators believe they are gambling legally.

“Illegal, offshore operators continue to take advantage of unknowing consumers,” AGA president and CEO Bill Miller said in a statement. “This only worsened during the sports shutdown, with unregulated bookmakers offering odds on everything from the weather and shark migration patterns to whether your friends’ marriage will survive the pandemic.”

Gamblers were more confused by online sportsbooks than their local bookies. The study found that spending through illegal bookies was down 25% in states with legal sports betting last year. Online, legal spending was up 12%, but illegal wagering also increased by 3%.

Bettors Find Security at Legal Sportsbooks

That said, bettors understand why they should stick with legal options when possible. A quarter of those who switched to legal operators did so because they had more confidence that those bookmakers would pay their winnings. Gamblers also cited improved awareness of legal options (20%), promotional offers (19%), and the desire to play at a regulated sportsbook (19%) as the top reasons for making the switch.

“We’ve known for a long time that Americans like to bet on sports. This research affirms their interest in moving toward the protections of the legal market,” Miller said. “Giving consumers convenient alternatives to the illegal market, like regulated mobile offerings and competitive odds, is key for getting bettors to switch to legal channels.”

Heart + Mind Strategies conducted the survey on behalf of the AGA in December 2019 and January 2020. They surveyed a total of 3,451 American adults aged 21 and over.

In May 2018, the US Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which had prevented additional states from regulating sports betting. Since that time, 17 states and the District of Columbia have regulated single-game sports betting, joining Nevada in the practice. Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington have also approved legal sports betting, but have yet to launch sportsbooks.

According to the AGA, Americans have spent more than $22 billion on legal sports betting since the Supreme Court overturned PASPA.

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