Sports Betting Demographics of the Modern Era

The average sports bettor is younger than you might expect, but the cigar stereotype is probably still true for one or two of them. At least, we suspect. (Shutterstock)

The average sports bettor is younger than you might expect, but the cigar stereotype is probably still true for one or two of them. At least, we suspect. (Shutterstock)

Back when we wrote an article attempting to clear away the stigma that some people place on sports betting, we talked about some of the assumptions that many people make about the average sports bettor. However, in terms of talking about stigma, the primary stereotype we addressed was the notion that those who indulge themselves in this simple hobby are all gambling addicts. It didn’t take much work to clear this notion, since most rational people would not have trouble seeing that it is not only untrue, but rather implausible. But what of sports betting demographics in general?

There are certainly some stereotypes to be had here. A person who has never partaken in the art of sports betting, or who does not know a fair amount of sports bettors, might occasionally leap to the conclusion that most sports bettors are not unlike the people you see at the race track in the movies. In many films, you see old men in shabby clothes, presumably reeking of smoke and quite possibly whiskey. For obvious reasons, this is not a stereotype with which most people prefer to have themselves associated.

But if you look at actual sports betting demographics, you will see that these stereotypes are not quite accurate. Back in 2008, a Gallup poll confirmed that certain sports betting demographics showed trends that bucked the stereotypes, even if more recent data from the American Gaming Association concerning the gaming industry at large would appear at first glance to corroborate them. Bear in mind that the following data applies primarily to the United States, without accounting for overseas markets.

Sports Betting Demographic #1: Age

This is actually Ernest Hemingway. But you thought it was an old bookie at first, didn’t you? (Earl Theisen Archives/LOOK Magazine)

This is actually Ernest Hemingway. But you thought it was an old bookie at first, didn’t you? (Earl Theisen Archives/LOOK Magazine)

The first of the sports betting demographics we will look at concerns the age of the sports bettors. The stereotype associated with this particular demographic tends to skew toward older persons. One often assumes that sports bettors are approaching or even beyond retirement age. Even those who assume them to be younger will generally have an image of someone who is middle-aged and perhaps a bit down on their luck. And while there is certainly nothing bad about living well into your golden years, the issue with any stereotype such as this is that it doesn’t necessarily present an accurate image.

Of course, if you look at the link from 2013 concerning data surveyed by the American Gaming Association, you might be inclined to believe that this is true. While that data showed that 39% of casino visitors in the United States are relatively young (between 21 and 35), it also showed that younger casino-goers are generally there to seek entertainment, with far less interest in gaming than older patrons. In fact, it showed that less than half of a casino’s younger patrons are inclined to partake in casino games upon every visit to the venue.

While it might seem as if the above data confirms the common stereotypes, you are forgetting one key factor. Sports betting is largely performed online these days, which means that sports betting demographics must account for more than just the casinos. As pointed out by Covers, companies such as CG Technology (who we have mentioned before) are experiencing a number of customers who are as young as 21.

This might have something to do with the tendency of younger generations to embrace technology, although the Gallup poll linked at the beginning of this article indicates that youth in general is much more likely to bet on sports. Their sports betting demographics indicated that just over a quarter of American sports bettors are between 18 and 34 years old, with just under a fifth of sports bettors fitting the demographic between 35 and 54 years old.

In fact, only just 11% of American sports bettors in the aforementioned Gallup poll were 55 or older. This means that, at least seven years ago, only just over a tenth of sports bettors in the United States were in the right age group to conform to popular stereotypes. With the internet growing more and more popular as the years bear on, it’s hard to imagine a reversal in this data arising any time soon.

Sports Betting Demographic #2: Gender

See? It’s not like women don’t enjoy the gaming industry at all. (Kzenon/Colourbox)

See? It’s not like women don’t enjoy the gaming industry at all. (Kzenon/Colourbox)

It goes without saying that the common stereotype for sports bettors in terms of gender is that most of them are male. This is not altogether surprising, especially when you consider that men are often more likely to be sports fans. And while there may be some sports bettors out there who do not religiously watch sports, those who want to profit still need to do a fair bit of research if they hope to succeed. This means that those without an interest in sports are not as likely to play.

In fact, data collected in 2012 regarding whether or not Americans would support a change in current sports betting laws indicated that only 7% of women polled had placed a bet on a sporting event, while only 2% of women polled had actually done so through a bookmaker. These numbers are certainly quite low, even though many women did seem to support the act of sports betting (close to half of them supported the notion of reforming current legal regulations).

The above-linked Covers article did suggest, however, that a fair number of female sports bettors will participate in large events such as the NBA Finals, March Madness, the Stanley Cup or the Super Bowl. In addition, the Gallup poll conflicts with the data collected in the survey on regulatory reform, suggesting that 13% of women surveyed were likely to place wagers on sporting events. While this data was collected four years earlier than the data suggesting only 7% were likely to place wagers, it is hard to believe that women are becoming less interested rather than the other way around.

Since Covers suggests that more and more women are becoming interested in sports betting, the lack of growth in actual sports betting demographics could be attributed to gender bias. In Uganda, a woman actually had to sue for her rights as a sports bettor just earlier this year. And while this incident may have taken place far from the United States, it is not outlandish to suggest that these types of issues might exist across the globe.

As long as this type of bias is not too widespread, then the apparent growth of interest in female sports bettors might start to level the playing field over the next few years. It is possible, of course, that males will always dominate this particular area of sports betting demographics. But that does not mean that women will not make at least some progress in bridging the gap.

Sports Betting Demographic #3: Income


Some stereotypers like to picture a person only slightly wealthier than the guy on the left. Except, you know…holding a laptop. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

Some stereotypers like to picture a person only slightly wealthier than the guy on the left. Except, you know…holding a laptop. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

One of the prominent myths regarding sports betting demographics is that your average bettor is likely down on their luck. This is one of those images that definitely stems from race track stereotypes, and just sort of spirals out to affect the whole of the gaming industry. Many people picture a chain-smoking drunk, possibly someone with no job and a gambling addiction, who’s spending the last of his money trying to earn a quick buck.

In 2012, ESPN reported that the average sports bettor is likely to be a suburbanite with about a $74,000 annual income. They even said that around 6% of those who bet frequently make over half of this amount. And while that 6% may not sound like a lot, the percentage of people with a $150,000 who don’t bet at all is actually smaller. Of course, the problem with this is that you might be tempted to stereotype in the opposite direction, assuming that sports betting is a hobby for the rich and no one else.

This isn’t quite true. Yes, the “down on their luck” stereotype is thoroughly false. If we harken back to the Gallup poll from 2008, they found at the time that only 6% of people from low-income homes were trying their luck at the sportsbooks. And yes, they found that more than a quarter of people from homes with an income of $75,000 or more were engaged in the hobby of sports betting.

But they also found that 17% of the middle class was betting on sports. You might be thinking that 17% is less than 28%, but what you’re forgetting is that households in which the income falls between $30,000 and $75,000 are pretty common. In other words, 17% of middle-income homes is actually a significant number, possibly much more significant than 28% of upper-class homes.

So what does this mean? Well, it basically means that sports betting demographics don’t necessarily skew far enough toward either the lower or the upper class to establish a stereotype. Your average sports bettor and your average Joe are basically the same person. And while some bettors might be lower-income individuals trying to press their luck while others are higher-income individuals simply throwing their wealth around, neither of these demographics is great enough to warrant a stereotype.

Sports Betting Demographic #4: Education

Are we the only ones that actually kept our mortarboards after graduation? (Salon Media)

Are we the only ones that actually kept our mortarboards after graduation? (Salon Media)

There isn’t necessarily a specific stereotype that fits the education demographic, but it isn’t too hard to figure out what the stereotype would be. Think about that stereotypical guy at the race track that we mentioned in the introduction to this post. The cigar-reeking souse of advanced age who’s spending the last of his family’s money on what he thinks to be a sure thing. Doesn’t exactly sound like an Ivy Leaguer, now does he?

Well, maybe he should. And given how badly common stereotypes have fared against the sports betting demographics listed above, you shouldn’t be too surprised by what we’re about to tell you. According to the Gallup poll from 2008, college graduates at that time were about 10% more likely to engage in sports betting than their uneducated counterparts. More specifically, only 14% of those surveyed who had not graduated college appeared likely to wager on sports, compared to 24% of those who had graduated.

This makes sense, given that the Covers article on this issue specifically explored which types of sports bettors are the most likely to be “sharps,” which is a slang term denoting highly skilled professional sports bettors. While sharps can fit into any one of the sports betting demographics discussed above (after all, it’s more about skill than anything else), there is one particular type of sharp which Covers states is comprised of mostly younger sports bettors. These are the “pure math” types, who primarily use their knowledge of mathematics to assess betting lines and try to beat the sportsbooks.

Perhaps this purely mathematical approach explains why the American Gaming Association found that almost all visitors to the Vegas sportsbooks tend to budget less than $300 per visit, while over half of those patrons budget only $100 or less. After all, an important part of the mathematical approach would no doubt include smart bankroll management. The college graduate is also likely to know a thing or two about variance in sports betting, as well as how to beat the juice.

The fact that a predominance of sports bettors are college graduates does more than simply refute a stereotype regarding sports betting demographics. It also establishes that the modern sports bettor is savvy enough to figure out how to really profit from their endeavors. From picking the right sportsbook to utilizing complicated mathematical principles such as the Kelly criterion, today’s modern sports bettor should be able to turn a decent profit.

What Sports Are They Betting On?

They’re probably betting on one of these, but with less high school kids. (Marc Guberti/Inquisitr)

They’re probably betting on one of these, but with less high school kids. (Marc Guberti/Inquisitr)

We’ve covered a lot of sports betting demographics. And while there are probably more to cover, we’ve hit the key points by examining age, gender, income and education. It appears that the primary picture of today’s average sports bettor is generally either a young male of respectable income, or a high-income male in a married relationship. Either way, you can usually bet on the idea that they’ll probably have a college education.

But to really paint a fuller picture of the average sports bettor, we need to look at which sports they’re actually sinking their money into. It was mentioned in one of the previous entries that men are more commonly sports bettors because they’re more likely to be fans of the sports on which they’re betting. So which sports tend to gain their attention the most?

Well, according to the information from the American Gaming Association, the answer is football. And this isn’t by a small margin, either. They found that 45% of the wagers they surveyed were placed on football games, for a total worth of $1.567 billion. But since we’re currently in the off-season (and awaiting a new season under new rules), you might be wondering what people are betting on right now.

And the answer is basketball, which came in at 28% for a total worth of $975.01 million. This is pretty far below football, but we’re sure the bookmakers aren’t complaining. And once the NBA Finals are over, odds are that a lot of people are going to be betting on the MLB. Bets for baseball ranked at 20%, worth a total of $693.17 million. And while the MLB has shown itself not to approve of sports betting in some circumstances, we again have to say that these should represent some decent profits for the sportsbooks.

All other sports only ranked at about 6%, worth a total of %215.9 million. So the sportsbooks probably won’t miss hockey season too much. Either way, there you have it. While the major attractions for sports bettors are generally going to be determined by which sports are in season, it appears that they will usually favor football when available. This is followed by basketball, then baseball, and then anything else they can get their hands on. Which, if you’re utilizing our handicapping consulting services, pretty much just means hockey.

You certainly shouldn’t let your own habits be influenced by the sports betting demographics above. If you do not fit into a certain age group, gender group, education level or income bracket, then you are naturally still permitted to lay wagers to your heart’s content, and on whichever sport you choose. But it’s nice to know that, as far as stereotypes are concerned, there’s really no such thing as the definitive sports bettor. It’s a fun and profitable hobby, and everyone is invited to partake.