Less than a quarter of Marylanders are interested in gambling their money in the state’s still-growing sports betting industry, according to a new poll.
Among 800 people surveyed by Goucher College Poll in partnership with The Baltimore Banner, 23% said they were likely to place a bet on sports over the next year, either in person at a casino or online.
Another 76% of those polled said they were unlikely or very unlikely to wager on sports.
Even though the majority of Marylanders aren’t gambling on sports and don’t plan to, the 23% who do gamble would represent more than 1 million residents.
Nationally, about 16% of adults have placed a bet on sports in the past year, a figure that includes both states where the practice is legal and states where it is not, according to the American Gaming Association, an industry trade group.
“It’s not surprising Maryland would be higher, given that it’s legal in Maryland,” said David Forman, the American Gaming Association’s vice president of research.
All told, 33 states and the District of Columbia have legal sports gambling markets up and running. A handful more have legalized the practice, but the industry isn’t yet operational, according to the gaming association.
Before Maryland’s sports gambling industry launched, the website BetMaryland.com conducted a poll that accurately predicted the market, indicating 23% of Marylanders, or more than 1 million, would gamble on sports.
The Goucher-Banner poll found that men were more likely to gamble on sports than women — 25% of men compared to 20% of women.
And younger Marylanders appear to be more interested in sports betting. Among 18- to 34-year-olds, 37% said they were likely to gamble on sports. For ages 35 to 55, 23% were likely to gamble on sports, and just 12% of those 55 and older planned to make a bet.
White Marylanders were also less likely to gamble on sports at 18%, compared to 32% of Black residents and 27% for those who have another racial identity.
The poll results reflect the national research done by the American Gaming Association, Forman said. Sports betters tend to be younger, more educated, wealthier and more diverse than the population as a whole, he said.
And people who gamble on sports are more invested in the games, which results in watching more games on TV, tuning into games for longer periods of time and going to games.
“It’s a pretty lucrative demographic,” he said.
Maryland’s sports betting industry was slow to get off the ground after voters gave approval in 2020.
The ballot question in 2020 was broad and did not lay out any specifics of how the expanded industry would work, including licenses, locations, taxation and regulations. So state lawmakers spent their 2021 General Assembly session working out those details, with a focus on ensuring minority- and women-owned businesses would have meaningful participation in the industry.
By the end of 2021, the first group of in-person sports gambling facilities started accepting bets, including five casinos, a bingo hall and two off-track betting locations.
But it took almost another year for regulators to hash out the final details and run the application and approval process for what could ultimately be dozens of mobile apps.
The first mobile betting apps went live just before Thanksgiving in 2022 and were immediately popular: In the first eight days, gamblers wagered more than $186 million on sports across seven apps, about one-third of it in “free play” promotions.
The state now has 10 in-person locations for sports gambling and nine mobile apps.
Over the past nine months, mobile and in-person sports gambling businesses have taken in nearly $2 billion in bets, paying out $1.7 billion. That’s resulted in the gambling businesses paying $13.9 million in taxes to the state, most of which goes to a fund for improving public schools.
In March alone — amid the college basketball national tournaments — the handle was $386 million, with $338 million paid out and $5.3 million going to the state. That’s the most the industry has paid to the state in a single month since the first sportsbooks went live.
A small portion also goes to the state’s Problem Gambling Fund. Those concerned about problem gambling can reach out for help through 1-800-GAMBLER or mdgamblinghelp.org.
Goucher College Poll surveyed a representative sample of 800 Marylanders, including 768 who are registered voters, between April 18 and 23. The poll has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.