A recent Seton Hall Sports Poll indicates nearly two-thirds of Americans believe legalized sports wagering colors fan opinions of NFL officiating, and that sentiment is almost evenly split among political party lines.
The survey queried respondents about their views on officiating in six major US sports – college basketball and football, MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL. Two-thirds of those polled believe that of the four major professional leagues in the US, MLB has the best officiating, while the NHL has the worst.
Seton Hall questioned 703 adults last week, asking the participants to identify themselves as Democrat, Republican, Independent or “other.” Although the domestic political environment is contentious and highly partisan, when it comes to opinions on referees, Democrats and Republicans find common ground.
At last, something they can agree on,” said Rick Gentile, director of the Seton Hall Sports Poll. “The differences were negligible in almost every case.”
The poll asked respondents if sports betting colors fan views of officiating, with 62 percent saying “yes” and 20 percent saying they disagree. Eighteen percent didn’t know or don’t have an opinion on the matter.
The NFL, the most wagered-on sport in the US, was initially reluctant to embrace sports betting amid concerns proliferation of the activity could imperil the integrity of the game.
Betting Or Not, Officiating Problems Linger
The Seton Hall survey did not ask participants for opinions on whether or not NFL referees are wagering on games. But there’s no getting around the fact that just halfway through the 2019 season, the league has already had more than its share of officiating controversies, many of which have occurred in prime time games, such as Monday or Sunday Night Football.
Football fans complaining about referees isn’t anything new, but that doesn’t mean they favor more instant replay. Seton Hall’s survey says 42 percent of Democrats and 40 percent of Republicans don’t want every play in an NFL contest to be eligible for review.
While more review of various plays isn’t desired, the survey indicates the NFL scores poorly in one area: percentage of fans viewing the quality of the league’s officiating as “terrible.” The average among Democrats and Republicans viewing NFL referees as dreadful is 23 percent, according to Seton Hall, by far the largest percentage of the four dominant professional leagues in the US.
The intersection of betting and football is a delicate balance for the NFL. A previous Seton Hall poll indicates American opinions on sports betting are shifting towards increased acceptance, and those approval numbers jump among prized demographics, such as millennials and Gen Z.
Additionally, other data points confirm that, regardless of sport, bettors are more likely to watch a contest on television than fans who are not financially invested in a game’s outcome.
Broadcast rights are one of the biggest money makers for the NFL, having generated an estimated $8.78 billion in fiscal 2018-19, meaning $274.3 million was sent to each of the 32 franchises.