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Gambling On The Game

Analyzing Gambling on Professional Football

Recently, the federal law prohibiting sports gambling, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, which has given each state the license to allow legal sports betting. With so much excitement around this decision, ESPN began tracking each state's progress toward passing the necessary legislation for sports gambling.

While there is the potential for each state to legalize sports betting, we wanted to take a look into the current state of football betting, specifically. We surveyed more than 770 individuals to understand who is betting, how they're placing their wagers, and how much of it is actually legal. Bet you know the answers already? We wouldn't recommend wagering on that.

Who Is Wagering On Football

Sports Gambling: A Young Person's Game?

Our survey shows millennials were the most likely generation to have placed a bet on a professional football match. Over 31% of those born between 1981 and 1996 made a wager on football, more than two times greater than the rate of Gen Xers. Baby boomers were the least likely to engage in betting on football, with less than 9% of those surveyed willing to fork over some cash for the chance to win big on touchdowns and first downs.

Percentage Of People Gambling More On Football

Sports Gambling Plans

Across all generations, more than 40% of respondents currently gambling on football planned to gamble more now that sports betting is legal, and the industry will see the biggest uptick of new gamblers from Gen Xers. Nearly 17% of Gen Xers who didn't currently gamble on football planned to now take the chance. For those looking to make a profit on the volume of transactions being made among football gamblers, the future looks very, very bright.

Football Betting Breakdown

Does Illegal Gambling Deter Those Willing to Make a Wager?

Where there's a will (and a feeling you can correctly predict the outcome of a football game featuring a myriad of elements influencing the end result), there's a person willing to gamble. Now the real question is: Are they willing to gamble illegally?

Betting On Fantasy Football

Even with changes to legislation in some states, not everyone has access to a legal sports betting solution yet. Out of all those who gambled, over 41% participated in legal football betting – less than 2% more than those who participated in illegal sports betting. Nearly 20% said they didn't discriminate – they gambled either way.

When it came to trying to win it big, millennials were more likely to place a larger average bet than Gen Xers or baby boomers. Their $71 average was $10 and $33 more, respectively, than the other generations.

Big Game Bets

One way around the legal issues surrounding sports betting has been the rise of fantasy sports websites. These are daily competitions where individuals wager on the performance of individual players, rather than betting on how the teams perform. When it came to where the money was spent, DraftKings and Yahoo Sports Daily Fantasy were tied for first. In fact, more than 52% of the action on fantasy football took place across these two sites.

Odds For current year

Over 55% of people from each generation participated in either a fantasy or daily fantasy site. And this is one area where millennials didn't have the highest adoption rate. Almost 63% of Gen Xers bet on fantasy football for real cash, compared to less than 61% of millennials.

Always Bet on Boston

Who fancies a rematch for the Big Game this year? Sports bettors, that's who! While the Philadelphia Eagles managed to stop another last-minute victory march by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Minneapolis in February 2018, these were the two teams people placed their money on to make the trip to Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2019. Almost 30% of those surveyed would place a wager on the boys from Beantown to claim their sixth championship total.

Over 11% fancied placing a bet on the Philadelphia Eagles to go back to back for their second championship. While the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers both managed to crest above the 5% mark, these four teams combined for over 55% of the overall responses. And almost no one believes the Bengals or Bucs will win it all. Sorry, Cincinnati and Tampa Bay.

Don't Take a Sack on Your Next Bet

The people have spoken – they want to gamble on professional sports. Now that the Supreme Court has paved the way for their dreams to come true, expect more legal ways than ever before to wager on the outcome of a football game.


We collected responses from 777 people using Amazon's Mechanical Turk. 35.5% of participants were female, and 60.5% were male. Participants ranged in age from 19 to 76, with a mean age of 34.9 and a standard deviation of 10.2. Participants were excluded if they were clearly not paying attention (e.g., failed attention check question or entered obviously inconsistent data). We weighted the data to the 2016 U.S. census for age and gender. This project has not been tested for statistical significance and should be for entertainment purposes only.

The data we are presenting rely on self-reporting. There are many issues with self-reported data. These issues include but are not limited to: selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration.


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