January 22, 2016

Sports gambling gets a moral pass from most Americans

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In a recent LifeWay Research survey, 47 percent of Americans say daily fantasy sports should be legal. Photo courtesy of LifeWay Research

In a recent LifeWay Research survey, 47 percent of Americans say daily fantasy sports should be legal. Photo courtesy of LifeWay Research

Is sports gambling moral? You bet, Americans say in new LifeWay Research. Graphic courtesy of LifeWay Research

Is sports gambling moral? You bet, Americans say in new LifeWay Research. Graphic courtesy of LifeWay Research

(RNS) With NFL conference championship games set for Sunday (Jan. 24) and millions of Americans poised to bet money on their fantasy rosters, a new survey finds most have no moral issue with sports gambling.

Even so, a significant number also draw the line at legalizing sports betting nationwide. And the country is split on the question of whether daily sports games sponsored online should be illegal.

Companies such as FanDuel and DraftKings offer prizes as people risk money on the performance of the hypothetical teams on their fantasy rosters. Both games are under fire from some states’ attorneys general. They allege the games are a form of online gambling outside state laws.

Nashville, Tenn.-based LifeWay Research, an evangelical polling group, found 64 percent of U.S adults said sports gambling is not morally wrong, 31 percent disagreed and 5 percent were unsure.


RELATED STORY: What’s God got to do with football devotion? Plenty


But only 40 percent agreed “sports betting should be legalized throughout the country,” with 49 percent disagreeing with that statement.

There’s a statistical tie on whether daily fantasy sports are legal — 47 percent say yes and 46 percent say no. That’s within the 3.6 percentage point margin of error for the survey of 1,000 U.S. adults, conducted Sept. 14-28 by landline and cell phone.

A majority of support for legal sports betting came chiefly from men, from people under age 35, from people with no religious identity, and from people who say they rarely or never attend church.

Opposition runs highest among religious Americans. Almost six in 10 with evangelical beliefs (58 percent) say sports betting should not be legalized throughout the country, and 57 percent believe daily fantasy sports should be illegal.

“We don’t see a majority in any group saying it’s morally wrong to bet on sports,” LifeWay Research vice president Scott McConnell said in a statement. “For more Americans to want something to be illegal than find it immoral is an interesting situation.”

(Cathy Lynn Grossman is senior national correspondent for Religion News Service)

  • Garson Abuita

    Legalized nationwide sports betting presents a corruption hazard for all major sports. Maybe it should be illegal, maybe it shouldn’t, but I don’t think most people are approaching this from a moral standpoint of “it’s wrong because of my religious beliefs.” It’s a public policy issue. State-run lotteries, on the other hand, present a corruption reducer: get organized crime out of the numbers game by running your own. Again, public policy, but not morals, are driving most people’s views on this. BTW, there are only 6 US states without lotteries and only 3 of them can be fairly said to object on religious grounds.

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  • Fran

    “But you are among those forsaking God, those forgetting my holy mountain, those setting a table for the god of Good Luck, and those filling up cups of mixed wine for the god of Destiny” (Isaiah 65:11).

    We can see God’s opinion concerning gambling, and Christians should therefore avoid the same.