A survey conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind Poll found a slim majority, or 51 percent, of Americans for the first time think sports betting should be legal in states where it's prohibited by federal law.
The poll found that 60 percent of men support legal sports betting compared with 43 percent of women, while the overall rate is up from 39 percent in a similar poll in March 2010.
The research discovered that one in five American men acknowledged betting on sports. Only 33 percent of registered voters nationally were completely opposed to legal sports wagering, with 11 percent labeled themselves as unsure.
"These national figures are similar to what we've seen in our recent polls of New Jersey voters," said Krista Jenkins, director of the poll and political science professor at the New Jersey university.
Sports betting is legal in Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana under the 1992 federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act . Under the law, New Jersey could have enacted a sports betting law, but failed to do so.
In January, New Jersey lawmakers passed and Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill to legalize sports betting at Atlantic City casinos and Garden State racetracks. The NCAA, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, National Basketball Association and National Hockey League are challenging that law in federal court.
"New Jersey is moving forward with its plans for sports betting, despite federal lawsuits … to block it," Jenkins said.
Supporters of sports betting have argued that illegal wagering is already happening. The poll found that only those older than 60 are more likely to oppose expansion of sports wagering than to support it. The 40 percent in favor is still larger than the 27 percent approval from that group two years ago.
Americans are not as quick to support all new gambling, with only 27 percent in favor of allowing states to run online games.
"It's a real crapshoot," said Jenkins. "On one side are economic benefits to a state, yet on the other is the concern that online gaming will make it too easy for individuals to get caught up in gambling."
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 814 registered voters nationwide had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
Copyright GamingWire. All rights reserved.