The American Gaming Association (AGA) has pledged to strengthen its education efforts after new research found that over half of consumers who wagered with unlicensed operators in the US did not know they had gambled illegally.
Conducted by market research consultancy Heart + Mind Strategies on behalf of the AGA, the study ran from December 2019 to January 2020 and included 3,451 interviews with American adults aged 21 and over.
While 74% of respondents said it was important to only bet with legal providers, 52% admitted to gambling with illegal operators in 2019.
However, some 55% of players that bet via these unlicensed sites were unaware that these sites were in fact illegal.
Other key findings from the study suggested that the expansion of regulation across the US was cannibalising offshore handle and revenue.
Average spend with illegal operators fell 25% last year in states where sports betting is legal, while legal online and mobile gambling spend climbed 12% year-on-year.
The main reason for switching to legal operators was that consumers had more confidence their bets will be paid out, the survey said, with 25% of customers saying this influenced their decision. Some 20% of consumers said they were more aware of legal options, while 20% had a desire to use a regulated operator.
However, the AGA also noted a slight increase in activity with illegal offshore operators in states with legal sports betting, with this rising by 3%.
“We’ve known for a long time that Americans like to bet on sports. This research affirms their interest in moving toward the protections of the legal market,” said AGA president and chief executive Bill Miller said.
“Giving consumers convenient alternatives to the illegal market, like regulated mobile offerings and competitive odds, is key for getting bettors to switch to legal channels.”
As such, the AGA said it would commit to enhanced education initiatives to help improve the knowledge of legal gambling options among consumer. The AGA already runs its interactive sports betting map, featuring a directory of licensed online and retail sportsbooks in states where sports betting is legal.
In addition, the AGA is working with federal and state law enforcement to raise awareness of illegal marketplace, as well as engaging with publishers and media to ensure their platforms do not promote offshore sites.
“Illegal offshore operators continue to take advantage of unknowing consumers; this only worsened during the sports shutdown, with unregulated bookmakers offering odds on everything from the weather and shark migration patterns to whether your friends’ marriage will survive the pandemic,” Miller said.
“The AGA is focused on educating customers on how to wager legally and the dangers of the illegal market, especially with the return of the MLB and NBA this month.”