Horowitz Research

COVID-19 has had a massive impact on sports and the industries it supports. But with the world slowly reopening, events from NASCAR to the Korean Baseball Organization to European soccer are making a slow but steady return to the calendar.

And according to a new study on current and potential sports bettors, the restart, combined with the rapid growth of legal sports betting in the U.S., offers an opportunity to reach a powerful and growing demographic: young, educated men with money to spend.

A joint project by Heart+Mind Strategies and Horowitz Research, The State of Sports Betting: New Frontiers, New Technology, and New Audiences surveyed 1,000 American adults (aged 21 and over) across a wide demographic and found the growth of legal sports betting has had a significant impact on the size of the market and the profile of the bettor.

This is all great news for radio, which has been aggressive about developing content and products around the emerging sports-wagering culture — even with the actual games on hiatus for the time being.

It has only been two years since the Supreme Court handed the power to control sports gambling to the states and 24 have already opted to make it legal. More are expected to legalize sports betting within the next year. According to the report, this change has led to rapid (and ongoing) growth in the legal betting market.

“Data from the study underscores the impact that legal online sportsbooks have on driving engagement and frequency of betting,” says Adriana Waterston, Senior VP, Insights and Strategy, for Horowitz Research.

The report notes that 14% of U.S. adults aged 21 and older, “especially young, highly-educated affluent men,” are already engaged in sports betting. Researchers believe that number could increase to 34%, with another 20% of U.S. adults considering entering the sports-betting market, thanks in part to the ease of placing bets via the Internet.

“Virtually all sports bettors have used an online sportsbook in the past year,” Waterston continues. “And about half use an online sportsbook at least monthly.”

This growth may play a key role in the sports industry’s post-COVID-19 recovery. The study found that nearly 80% of sports bettors say they’re “more into sports now that they can bet on them.” And with events happening behind closed doors, researchers believe betting may help offset revenue lost from ticket sales due to closed-door events or limited seating. Among survey respondents, 68% of sports bettors would rather spend money on sports betting than tickets to a game.

“In a world impacted by COVID-19, fans are interested in connecting with the excitement of sports in new ways,” says Mike Dabadie, CEO at Heart+Mind Strategies. “And sports betting is one of the biggest opportunities.”

Among those opportunities is attracting bettors to new sports. Prior to the lockdown, American wagering was dominated by the NFL, NBA, MLB, NCAA College Football, and NCAA College Basketball. Researchers see the potential for the NHL, MMA, the eSports industry and others to earn a larger share of bettors’ attention.

“The results of this study underscore that we are just at the tip of the iceberg in terms of the amount of excitement, energy and, most importantly, revenue sports betting will generate moving forward,” Waterston concludes. “We were particularly excited to see that some of the biggest opportunities lie in engaging young, multicultural audiences in sports betting.”

Read more about the report and the research methodology HERE.