Half of Americans support expanding U.S. sports betting: poll

By Hilary Russ

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Half of Americans favor legalizing sports betting across the United States, largely because they support the additional tax revenue it could bring for states, according to the results of a poll released on Friday.

Respondents to the poll, conducted by New Jersey-based Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll, also believe it should be expanded because people are already betting illegally anyway.

A Monday ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a 1992 law that banned sports wagering except in a few places, including Nevada. That opened the door to other states that might want to regulate and tax the wagers.

Five states already have laws in place that would allow them to move quickly to build a regulatory framework for the betting, while 14 others introduced sports gaming bills in recent legislative sessions, according to Fitch Ratings.

Lawmakers in New Jersey, which took the case to the high court, are working on bills that will create a regulatory framework and set tax rates there, with the hopes of rolling out sports betting at casinos and racetracks in coming weeks.

"It will now be a race to see who can benefit the most and the earliest from this changed landscape," said Krista Jenkins, who directed the poll, in a statement.

"New Jersey may have a head start ... but other states will soon be looking to pad their budgets," she said.

On Wednesday, Churchill Downs Inc signed a deal with SBTech, a sports betting platform, which will allow the gaming company to offer bets on events in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Mississippi.

By a two-to-one ratio, poll respondents did not believe states should share some of the tax revenue from sports betting with professional leagues, which have sought a so-called "integrity fee" that would give them a portion of bets taken.

However, just over a third of poll respondents opposed the expansion of sports betting altogether, most commonly because of fears it will spread gambling addiction and organized crime and will make sporting events less fair. Ten percent responded "don't know" when asked if they supported the move.

The random sample of adults nationwide was conducted from April 25 to May 1 by landline telephone and cell phone and has a margin of sampling error of 3.9 percentage points.

(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Susan Thomas)

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