Media & Entertainment

Will Sports Gambling Change How We Watch the Super Bowl?

Image Credit: Photo by Andrew McElroy on Unsplash

It’s that time of year again—time for the Super Bowl! Excited? Maybe? You’re not alone. Although the Super Bowl often feels like a modern holiday, spawning parties and get-togethers, even causing some schools to delay start times for the following morning, the collision of politics with the NFL and the dizzying alterations in rules have recently seemed to dampen people’s excitement for the big game.

Interest and intention don’t always forecast reality, of course. People who find themselves with nothing to do could decide, suddenly, to turn on the game. Having the L.A. market personally invested could also provide a boost. And if the Super Bowl turns out to be as exciting as the AFC and NFC Championships, we may see a further bump in ratings.

What’s easier to see is how people interact with the game—and there are several signs that indicate the way we watch the Super Bowl may be due for a change. For starters, social gatherings for the game appear to be on the wane. When asked where they planned to watch the Super Bowl, 78% of people said they’d watch it at home. About 16% of those interested in watching indicated they’d do so at someone else’s place, while 4% intend to go out to a bar or restaurant.

As we can see from the data below, these numbers have been changing gradually over the years, with more people opting to stay in and fewer choosing to go out.

Enthusiasm may explain part of this dynamic, but so might another recently shifting factor: gambling.

The Widening World of Sports Gambling

Currently, eight states allow people to bet on sports, but two more—New York and Arkansas—have passed legislation in favor of it, and another 17 have introduced similar bills. In a few years, sports betting could be legal in more than half the United States.

This could have major implications for the Super Bowl. According to recent polling, about 8% of people claimed to have bet on the Super Bowl last year. This year, 10% intend to bet on it. As more and more states legalize sports gambling, these numbers should only go up.

What’s more, people who bet on the Super Bowl are also people who watch the Super Bowl. When we compare both sets of data, we find those who bet on the game far more likely to watch it than those who don’t. Only about a third of gamblers are willing to risk money without tuning in to watch the result. And again, that’s their intent. A back-and-forth nail-biter, a slugfest headed into overtime, and those numbers could change.

Location, Location, Location

But simply watching isn’t the full story. It’s also worth noting where gamblers go for the game—  or, in this instance, where they don’t go. Our polling finds that the majority (57%) prefer to stay home. Chalk that one up to finances, probably. If you’re going to risk money on the game, and if it’s becoming easier to do so, you may be less likely to spend more money going out.

So even if interest in the Super Bowl has dropped a bit, a significant number of people will still be watching the game—and a growing portion of these viewers want to bet on it, as well. Many of them seem to prefer to watch the results from the comfort of their home, a trend that shows no sign of stopping. As more and more states legalize sports gambling, look for both of these numbers to increase. That’s a bet I’d be willing to make.

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