Fewer Sports Bettors Online, TransUnion Survey Blames Recession Fears

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A survey released Thursday showed that fewer Americans bet on sports online as fears of a recession grew during 2022.

A quarterly survey conducted by TransUnion found that 11% of US adults bet on sports in the fourth quarter of 2022, down from 19% in the second quarter. The decrease came as more people felt the country was in a recession. (Image: Maicasaa/Adobe Stick Images)

The poll conducted by TransUnion found that just 11% of those questioned in the fourth quarter of 2022 wagered online, down from 19% in the second quarter of last year. Participation dropped sharply across three of the four generations, with Millennials going from 38% in the second quarter to just 22% in the last quarter.

Gen Z participation fell from 26% to 17% over the same time frame, while Gen X went from 18% to 10%. Only Baby Boomers, the generation least involved in sports betting, experienced an increase, going from 1% involvement to 3%.

The numbers are particularly concerning since the fourth quarter includes most of the football season, the most popular sport for bettors.

Despite those gloomy numbers, there may be some light on the horizon. The poll found that sports bettors were more likely to express optimism about their finances over the next 12 months. TransUnion found that 75% of mobile bettors believe their conditions will improve, compared to just 50% for non-bettors. For bettors who wager $500 or more a month, who are considered high-value bettors, 82% are optimistic about the year ahead.

While Millennials and high-value bettors have held back from gaming, operators should focus their efforts to stay engaged with them,” said Declan Raines, head of US gaming at TransUnion, said in a statement. “These groups are a key market segment and, given their optimism for personal finances over the next 12 months, are much more likely to become return players when the economy bounces back.”

The reason for sports bettors’ optimism for the future is perhaps tied to the view that many of them feel the country is already in a recession.

Half of all mobile sports bettors believe the country is currently in a recession, compared to 43% of non-bettors. Two-thirds of high-value bettors also say the recession is ongoing.

Consumer Debt, Interest Rates Rise

Inflation has also taken a toll on the gaming industry over the past 18 months. TransUnion found that the industry peaked in the first half of 2021, which coincided with the federal government issuing stimulus payments to most taxpayers. Once the inflation rate reached 6% in mid-2021, the numbers fell to the point they were in early 2020.

In the fourth quarter of 2022, consumer debt rose by more than 9% compared to 2021. Higher interest rates and higher debt levels meant consumers were seeing their average minimum payments increase by $100 a month.

“This is a potentially worrying sign for gaming operators, as a greater share of consumers’ incomes go toward servicing debt or into emergency savings,” the report stated.

Not surprisingly, 49% of sports bettors said they cut their discretionary spending during the last quarter.

Credit Card Use a Concern

The report also found a correlation between mobile bettors and concerns about financial distress. When asked how they plan to pay current bills and loans, 22% of bettors said they plan to use existing credit cards, and 23% plan to open a new card. That’s compared to just 11% and 5%, respectively, for non-bettors.

“Mobile sports bettors indexed higher levels of intent to use their credit card balances or open new credit cards to meet their financial obligations, making them more vulnerable should economic conditions worsen,” the report stated.

TransUnion also found some concerns within the high-value demographic. A third of those bettors dipped into their retirement savings within the last three months, compared to just 15% of all mobile sports bettors and 11% of non-bettors.

TransUnion polled 2,835 adults (18+) across the US in early November for the survey in conjunction with research firm Dynata. The results have a margin of error of 1.8 percentage points at a confidence level of 95%.

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