Legal sports betting had a banner year in 2021 as the more than 30 states where sports gaming is legal saw an 80% increase in U.S. adults ages 21 and older who said they bet on sports at least once a month.
The share of U.S. adults who bet on sports at least weekly more than doubled from 5% in January to 12% in December, according to a Morning Consult survey.
The share of adults who said they bet on sports at all, regardless of frequency, rose to 25% in December from 20% in January.
Illegal Sports Betting May Skew the Numbers
There is still a strong underground sports betting market, which throws any official betting numbers off-kilter. But Morning Consult's survey showed that adults in the 32 legal betting states, along with the District of Columbia, were not more likely to say they bet on sports than their counterparts in states with no legalized option.
Adults aged 44 and under are significantly more likely to participate in sports betting than their older peers with 31% of respondents age 35-44 saying they bet at least once monthly. Comparatively, just 10% of adults ages 45-64 and 5% of those 65 and older said they bet regularly.
Almost a third of regular sports bettors said they typically bet $10 or less. Nearly half said their usual bet for a single game is $25 or less.
Only 14% of monthly bettors said their usual bet is more than $100. That breakdown was similar among those who bet at least weekly.
The December survey had a representative sample of 4,224 U.S. adults with the sample including 973 sports bettors and 684 regular sports bettors, which is defined as those who bet at least once a month.
Marketing Is Driving Adoption
That increase in sports gambling participation came at a steep cost to the industry which spent $1.2 billion on U.S. marketing, according to The Information. Most of that spend was targeted at the 11 states that launched legal betting in 2021.
"Given the proliferation of online sports betting and operators’ focus on digital marketing, it should come as no surprise that younger Americans are the most inclined to place wagers on games," Morning Consult said.
Essentially, it's an arms race between traditional players including Caesars (CZR) - Get Caesars Entertainment Inc Report and MGM (MGM) - Get MGM Resorts International Report which are battling for upstarts like DraftKings (DKNG) - Get DraftKings Inc Class A Report and Penn National (PENN) - Get Penn National Gaming, Inc. Report, which is an older player taking a younger tact through its ownership stake in Barstool Sports.
Caesars has been spending aggressively on more than just advertising. It has also hired former ESPN personalities Trey Wingo and Kenny Mayne to work as brand ambassadors. Both of these traditional players have also made major investments in their apps, largely to combat the inroads DraftKings and FanDuel have made with their digital-first properties.
Penn National Gaming has made its bet on using the Barstool brand to grow its audience.
"Barstool Sports is the ideal partner for Penn National and will enable us to attract a new, younger demographic, which will nicely complement our existing customer database," Penn CEO Jay Snowden said in a press release. "In addition, with 66 million monthly unique visitors, we believe the significant reach of Barstool Sports and loyalty of its audience will lead to meaningful reductions in customer acquisition and promotional costs for our sports betting and online products, significantly enhancing profitability and driving value for our shareholders.”