Fantasy Sports to legalized betting, a recent study examines the possibility

Friday, October 29, 2021 - 7:15am

A recent study, “A Shaky Bet: Legalized Sports Betting in the United States,” examined the attitudes of fantasy sports players to determine their likelihood to adopt legalized sports betting after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on sports betting in May 2018.

The study was conducted by Brian Petrotta, an assistant professor of sports media and communication at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and John McGuire, professor of sports media at Oklahoma State University.

The researchers conducted a series of six focus groups with a total of 30 subjects ranging in age from college to retirement who engaged in fantasy sports. Most subjects were white males, consistent with national statistics for fantasy sports participation.

Following the focus group discussions, researchers conducted a thematic analysis to identify the participants' motivations toward participation in fantasy sports and attitudes toward legalized sports betting.

The analysis revealed that participants did not play fantasy sports to win money. Instead, they were motivated by the connections with family, friends and coworkers, the bragging rights created by winning and the traditions created through participation.

Participants held favorable attitudes toward the Supreme Court's decisions to strike down the ban on sports betting. They believed the industry should be legal, taxed and regulated. However, this did not translate to an intention to engage in legal sports betting. Most participants noted they may bet on a big game but would not engage regularly in betting. The primary payoff from participation in sports betting is winning money, which is not a primary motivator for fantasy sports participants.

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to strike down the ban on sports betting opens the doors for states to create regulations allowing for legalized betting. If sports books created in the wake of legalization want to attract fantasy sports players to sports betting, they will need to find ways to tap into the major motivators identified in this study, including connections, competition and tradition.

Brian Petrotta headshot
Brian Petrotta, assistant professor