Americans Gamble on Sports? You Bet!

Fans of pro sports like to complain that modern-day players are too mercenary. Maybe they are, but a Gallup poll finds many fans are mercenary about sports in their own right. Seventeen percent of adults said they’ve gambled on pro sports in the past 12 months — 12 percent by betting on a sports event and 14 percent by taking part in an office pool. Thirteen percent of women, as well as 22 percent of men, reported engaging in sports-related gambling.

As you’d guess, the phenomenon skews young, with 26 percent of the poll’s 18-34-year-olds having indulged in the past 12 months. Less predictably, it skews upscale: 24 percent of college graduates, vs. 14 percent of non-grads, said they gambled on sports during that period. So did 28 percent of respondents with household income of $75,000-plus, vs. 17 percent of those in the $30,000-74,999 bracket and 6 percent of those making less than $30,000.

The proportion of Americans who gamble on sports has actually declined during the past decade and a half. In 1992, 12 percent of Americans said they’d bet on a pro sports event in the previous 12 months, vs. 7 percent in the new poll. The number saying they’d taken part in an office pool declined from 22 percent then to 14 percent now. It’s not because Americans are squeamish about gambling in general. Nearly half (46 percent) said they’ve bought a state lottery ticket in the past 12 months, and 24 percent said they’ve visited a casino. Twelve percent have played on a video poker machine during that period.