A study conducted by the market research firm Leger for the Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association revealed record-breaking numbers of people participating in both sports wagering and fantasy sports compared to last year.
Leger’s research, conducted through an online survey of 2,000 U.S. adults (many of them sports bettors and fantasy players) over the age of 18 during a 12-day period in mid-May, estimates that nearly 60.2 million — approximately 25% of all adult Americans — bet on sports. This is an increase of 9.4 million people, or 20%, compared to 2021’s estimate of 50.8 million. Fantasy sports participation saw a smaller yet still notable increase in estimated participation compared to last year, with 6 million more people involved, resulting in a 13.5% increase to approximately 50.4 million.
“The expansion of legal sports wagering and the post-pandemic bounce-back for fantasy sports is very encouraging to see,” said FSGA Chair Stacie Stern. “I’m also excited to see greater diversity of participants throughout our industries.”
Some of the growth can be attributed to the addition of more markets for legal sports wagering and fantasy sports contests in 2021, including Arizona, Louisiana, and Connecticut. All three states are consistently generating nine-figure sports wagering handles, with Arizona recording a record $691 million handle in March and nearly $7 million in fantasy sports entry fees for the first three months of the year.
Overall, 69.5 million people are estimated to have either placed a sports wager or played fantasy sports. And of that lot, nearly three in five — 59.5% — have done both. The amount of people crossing over to play both sides increased 9%, or by 3.4 million people, compared to last year.
More women are wagering
The FSGA survey also showed the number of women placing wagers has more than doubled over the last three years. In 2019, the 9.4 million women who made bets represented 20% of the overall sports betting populace. Research for this year’s study shows that the number has swelled to 20.6 million, and that women represent 34% of all sports bettors.
Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) play is also on the upswing, with more than 30 million people participating nationwide. That marks an improvement of 12% from the last study conducted in 2019. The new study also noted that crossover among people who play both DFS and season-long fantasy contests “is up significantly.”
The study also showed little cannibalization occurring between sports betting and fantasy sports. Approximately 98% of bettors who were participating in fantasy sports prior to placing their first wagers are still playing fantasy sports. Additionally, nearly one-third of handle is being generated through live-game wagering and close to two-thirds of handle originates through online or mobile wagering.
The NFL was the most popular sport in both disciplines, unsurprising given tha the league enjoyed a robust first year of sports wagering handle and fantasy play with DraftKings, FanDuel, and Caesars being official sports betting league partners, and BetMGM, FOX Bet, PointsBet and WynnBET being approved sportsbook operators.
Of the runners-up, Major League Baseball proved more popular than the NBA for fantasy sports playing, while the NBA was preferred for sports wagering. Among DFS players, esports made substantial gains compared to last year.
In states where there is regulated sports wagering, betting exclusively on unregulated sites plunged from 59% to 24%. One area that is still a cause for concern is bettors being unaware they are even wagering on unregulated sites, which turned out to be the case for nearly one in five people betting on those sites.
“This last point represents an incredible opportunity for increased consumer education and ensuring equitable state licensing structures that allow for open, competitive markets” Stern said.