NCAA Sports Betting Survey Finds Wagering Widespread Among Young People

The survey found 71% of those who responded were either too young to gamble at home or school, or they lived somewhere where sports betting was illegal. Even so, a significant number were still wagering.

Young people are wagering with sports betting sites across the United States, including a considerable number who are using the services of illegal bookmakers. 

This was one of the findings of a recent survey commissioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which was trying to nail down how much the youths are wagering, either via legal sports betting or otherwise. 

“We needed a new baseline so we can better understand what student-athletes are experiencing on their campuses and among their peers so we can best help them deal with the potentially disruptive dynamic of legal sports betting,” NCAA President Charlie Baker said in a press release on Wednesday. “Sports betting has increased interest in sports of all kinds, including college sports, which is great for our fans, but the NCAA and everyone from coaches to athletics department staff and college presidents must better understand what impact sports betting may have on student-athletes.”

‘Betting is pervasive’

Opinion Diagnostics conducted an online survey for the NCAA that asked questions to 3,527 people who were between the ages of 18 and 22. The respondents included college students and potentially current or former college athletes, as well as young people who were not attending college. The NCAA says it will survey student-athletes in the fall. 

And right off the bat, one of the survey’s findings was that a majority of this younger demographic is gambling on sports, as 58% of respondents reported engaging in at least one wagering-related activity. The same survey found 67% of students living on campus were bettors, 41% of students who bet had wagered on their school’s teams, and 35% of those bettors had used a student bookmaker.

The last finding is notable because, well, student bookmakers aren’t legal. More broadly, the survey found that 71% of those who responded were either too young to gamble at home or school, or they lived somewhere where sports betting was illegal.

“Despite this, a 56% majority of that subgroup is engaging in betting activities,” the survey said. “And 15% of that subgroup are engaging in sports betting activities a few times a month or more frequently.” 

Now these activities are “not necessarily illegal or improper,” the survey notes, as they could refer to daily fantasy sports, or a respondent could have traveled somewhere where sports betting is legal. For instance, someone could travel from North Carolina, where there is no online sports betting yet, to Virginia, where there is. 

“Betting is pervasive across all geographic regions of the country, and betting behavior in terms of frequencies and amounts wagered across all regions is generally similar,” the survey said. “There are regional variations in the sports, leagues, and events bet on. For example, those in the South are most likely to bet on college football and the Daytona 500, those in the Northeast are most likely to bet on the NHL, and those in the West are most likely to bet on professional soccer.”

A few concerns

Other findings could stoke some concern for regulators. One is that 63% of on-campus students reported they saw ads for sports betting, a higher rate than the rest of the population. Of those who saw ads, 58% said they were more likely to bet after their viewing. 

What’s more, the survey found 16% of respondents had engaged in at least one kind of risky gambling behavior, which was defined as betting a few times a week or daily, wagering $50 or more for a typical punt, and/or losing more than $500 in a single day.

The subject of sportsbook advertising on campus has been a hot topic for regulators. In Massachusetts, for instance, operators are banned from running ads on campus. In other states, there has been concern about formal partnerships between schools and sportsbooks.

The NCAA has had its specific headaches recently as well, such as Alabama recently firing its baseball coach amid an investigation into suspicious betting activity. All of the survey data will inform the NCAA’s work with the industry and regulators, as the college athletic association keeps looking for ways to protect athletes and the integrity of games. 

“We have built strong relationships with industry experts in this space, and we are in constant communication about various issues, everything ranging from integrity monitoring to mental health resources,” said Clint Hangebrauck, managing director of enterprise risk management at the NCAA, in the release. “The world of sports wagering is vast and complex. The NCAA is diligently gathering data, reviewing processes and procedures and creating initiatives to educate student-athletes and protect the integrity of college athletics.”

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