Internet Gambling goes ‘Wire’-less in U.S., Meeting with Perception

New Department of Justice Interpretation of 1961 Wire Act in Line with Growing Acceptance of Internet Gambling

Monday, February 13, 2012

New York, NY – True or false: Internet gambling is illegal in the United States? Following a new federal policy, the answer this time around is false! On December 23, 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice reversed its long-held position on Internet gambling by stating that the Interstate Wire Act of 1961 now applies only to sports betting and not Internet gambling. According to research findings from the Lottery & Gaming practice at Ipsos, this is news that will be well received by the general public.

In a study conducted in November 2011, a full month before the DoJ reversal of policy, Ipsos found that a majority (58%) of more than 2,000 U.S. adults interviewed online actually believed that Internet gambling was legal. And even when learning of its status, only a small portion (30%) believed it should be illegal. A vast majority (70%) believe that Internet gambling should be legal in some form, either with or without government regulation.

“The new interpretation of the Wire Act is clearly in line with public perception of Internet gambling, the only burning question appears to be about regulation,” says Paul Lauzon, Senior Vice President & Managing Director of Ipsos Reid’s Lottery & Gaming Group. “While 30% flat-out believe it should be illegal, 46% of respondents would be fine with legalized Internet gambling as long as it had government regulation, and another 24% would permit Internet gambling without any regulation whatsoever.”

The research also showed that the general acceptance of Internet gambling would be universal across all age categories.

Concerning the question of who would or should regulate Internet gambling, Ipsos’ research shows the long term trend remains that more Americans would prefer federal government regulation (54% in November 2011) to state government control (46%). But the research shows that for the actual operation of online gambling, state-level control wins out.

“State lotteries ranked as the top ‘first choice’ by respondents as to who should operate online gaming sites and existing land based casinos topped their list of second choice options,” adds Lauzon. “Clearly, the brand recognition and trust built by state lotteries and bricks-and-mortar casinos has benefitted them in this arena. Likewise, we find virtually no support for allowing off-shore Internet gaming companies to operate online gambling sites. When it comes to gambling, trust is a key issue.”

The new interpretation of the law has the potential to change the lottery and gaming industry, but according to the research, the initial impact will be slow and measured. When asked what kind of online gambling activities they would be most likely to do, the top two choices were purchasing lottery tickets (35%) and online casino slot games (18%). Online poker, sports betting, bingo and black jack games each garnered the interest of only 9-10% of respondents. And respondents only anticipate moving small portions of their gaming and gambling budgets online – far less than a quarter would spend 30% or more of said budget online.

“The Department of Justice’s recent change in interpretation of the Wire Act is bound to set lottery and gaming organizations and suppliers into a frenzy as they determine what this means for their respective futures,” adds Lauzon. “But based on our research and analysis, the public is ready for this. And with new online gaming research tools in the works and ready for launch, so too is Ipsos.”


These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between November 7 and 19, 2011.

A national sample of 2013 adults from Ipsos' U.S. online panel was interviewed online. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics and ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size and a 100% response rate would have an estimated margin of error of +/-2.19 percentage points 19 times out of 20 of what the results would have been had the entire population of adults in the United States been polled.

All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Paul Lauzon
Senior VP & Managing Director
Lottery & Gaming Group
Ipsos Reid

About Ipsos Reid

Ipsos Reid is Canada's market intelligence leader, the country's leading provider of public opinion research, and research partner for loyalty and forecasting and modelling insights. With operations in eight cities, Ipsos Reid employs more than 600 research professionals and support staff in Canada. The company has the biggest network of telephone call centres in the country, as well as the largest pre-recruited household and online panels. Ipsos Reid's marketing research and public affairs practices offer the premier suite of research vehicles in Canada, all of which provide clients with actionable and relevant information. Staffed with seasoned research consultants with extensive industry-specific backgrounds, Ipsos Reid offers syndicated information or custom solutions across key sectors of the Canadian economy, including consumer packaged goods, financial services, automotive, retail, and technology & telecommunications. Ipsos Reid is an Ipsos company, a leading global survey-based market research group.

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About Ipsos

Ipsos is a leading global survey-based market research company, owned and managed by research professionals. Ipsos helps interpret, simulate, and anticipate the needs and responses of consumers, customers, and citizens around the world.

Member companies assess market potential and interpret market trends. They develop and build brands. They help clients build long-term relationships with their customers. They test advertising and study audience responses to various media. They measure public opinion around the globe. Ipsos member companies offer expertise in advertising, customer loyalty, marketing, media, and public affairs research, as well as forecasting, modeling, and consulting. Ipsos has a full line of custom, syndicated, omnibus, panel, and online research products and services, guided by industry experts and bolstered by advanced analytics and methodologies. The company was founded in 1975 and has been publicly traded since 1999. In 2010, Ipsos generated global revenues of €1.140 billion ($1.6 billion U.S.).

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Internet Gambling goes ‘Wire’-less in U.S., Meeting with Perception

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Paul Lauzon
Senior Vice President, Canada
Ipsos Marketing