March Madness Betting Expected to Exceed $3 Billion, Set All-Time High
About $3.1 billion will be spent in betting during this year's March Madness college basketball tournament, an American Gaming Association (AGA) report said.
The report said that 17 percent of Americans—or about 45 million people—have plans to place bets this year. Bill Miller, president and CEO of the association, told the Associated Press that "there's no doubt this year will generate the highest legal handle in March Madness history."
The development reflects a trend in the United States of increasing revenue from sports betting, as well as the fact that several more states have established legal sports betting markets in the past year.
Since the Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on sports betting in 2018, several states have legalized or are in the process of legalizing the practice. According to data from Statista, the total revenue made from sports betting increased by more than 250 percent between 2018 and 2020.
Since last year's March Madness, more than 29 million more Americans have been able to legally bet in their home state after sports betting programs were launched in Arizona, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming, according to the AGA.
The over $3 billion sum takes into account both legal and illegal betting, according to the AP. Of the millions of people expected to bet this year, more than 36 million are expected to wager their money in bracket contests, while at least another 20 million are expected to bet "outside of bracket contests—at a retail sportsbook, online, with a bookie or casually with friends," the report said. This includes overlap, as some people intend to do both.
The report also showed that Spokane, Washington's Gonzaga University, the runner-up in last year's tournament, is one of the main favorites to win this year, with 17 percent of people surveyed saying they think Gonzaga will win. Another 12 percent identified Durham, North Carolina's Duke University as a favorite to win, while 11 percent were in favor of the University of Kentucky.
This estimated betting sum is less than half of what Americans were estimated to bet during this year's Super Bowl, the AP added. Though fewer people were anticipated to place bets—about 31 million—they were expected to wager higher amounts, with the estimate coming up to $7.6 billion.
The First Four of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament will begin on March 15, with the women's First Four starting on March 16.
This year, the NCAA women's tournament will see more expansions, with the tournament including 68 teams to match the men's tournament's numbers, Newsweek previously reported.