While the NFL remains opposed to legalizing sports betting across the United States, football fans overwhelmingly believe it's time for a change.
Research released Wednesday by the American Gaming Association found that 80 percent of people polled who said they expect to watch Super Bowl 50 want to change the current sports betting laws in the U.S., and 66 percent believe states should have the choice of whether to offer sports betting.
The research, conducted by The Mellman Group, consisted of 800 interviews completed in late January. Sixty-five percent of respondents believe transparent, regulated sports betting will either strengthen the integrity of games or have no impact on game outcomes. Seventy-two percent believe allowing states to regulate sports betting will make it safer for consumers.
"America's passion for football is rivaled only by its enthusiasm for sports betting," AGA president and CEO Geoff Freeman said in a statement coinciding with the release of the research. "Fans believe regulated sports betting enhances the game experience, deepens their engagement with their favorite athletes and teams and protects the integrity of games."
For decades, the NFL and other major professional sports leagues have opposed sports betting, fearing that it might damage the integrity of the games. The NBA, led by commissioner Adam Silver, changed its stance in 2014 and now supports legalization. Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has said the topic needs "fresh consideration," and the NHL is considering putting a franchise in Las Vegas, home base for legal sports betting in the U.S. But for now, thanks to a 24-year-old federal law, betting on sports remains illegal in the vast majority of states.
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) prohibits state-sponsored sports gambling in all but a handful of states. Nevada is the only state allowed to offer betting on single games. But PASPA has done very little to curtail the amount of money being wagered on sports in the U.S.
The AGA estimates that $4.2 billion will be wagered on Super Bowl 50 between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers. Only 3 percent of the money will be wagered legally, according to the AGA, with most of betting action taking place with offshore sportsbooks and local bookmakers operating illegally.
New Jersey has been battling the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and the NCAA to bring legalized sports betting to the Garden State for more than three years. The two sides will meet in the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Feb. 17 in a hearing that could shape the future of sports betting in the U.S.