The Big Business Of Brackets: More Than $8B Will Be Bet On NCAA Hoops Tourney

A sudden surge of interest in the three-point shooting percentage of the Vermont Catamounts and in the points-per-game allowed this year by the UC Irvine Anteaters? That's what happens when there’s more than $8 billion on the line.

Nobody’s bet that kind of money specifically on Vermont or UC Irvine, but the NCAA men’s basketball tournament that starts this week is expected to draw $8.5 billion in legal and illegal wagers as one in five Americans puts money down on March Madness, according to a survey released Monday by the American Gaming Association.

'Unlike Any Other Sporting Event In The Country'

The amount that will be legally bet will be the most ever, with this year’s tournament being the first since states other than Nevada could legalize sports betting. In all, about 47 million people will place a bet, the AGA said. The U.S. Supreme Court last year allowed states to legalize sports wagering in a case known as PAPSA.

“During this year’s tournament — the first in post-PASPA America — sports fans are expected to bet 40 percent more than they did on this year’s Super Bowl,” Bill Miller, AGA’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

“Unlike any other sporting event in the country, March Madness attracts millions who fill out brackets, make casual bets with friends or wager at a legal sportsbook, which Americans can now do more than ever before.”

The 64-team tournament technically starts Thursday with the Louisville-Minnesota game, but the First Four — a series of four play-in games — get under way Tuesday night with Prairie View A&M taking on Fairleigh Dickinson.

More States Considering Sports Betting 

Seven states have legalized sports gambling and according to Play USA, which tracks the legal sports betting market for the industry, about $400 million is expected to be bet legally. Most of that will be the $300 million or so wagered in Las Vegas, where sports betting has long been legal.

But gamblers in New Jersey, one of the early states to allow sports books, are expected to plunk down $75 million on the games. (Gamblers in New Jersey won’t be allowed to bet on that opening Fairleigh Dickinson game, because that school, along with one other NCAA tourney participant, Seton Hall, is in New Jersey, and the state’s law prohibits betting on games involving in-state teams.)

“In Nevada, the NCAA Tournament trails only the Super Bowl in popularity for sports bettors and actually generates more bets because of the number of games,” said Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for “New Jersey, which is the second-largest legal sports betting market, is not as event-driven as the Silver State. But the overall handle should propel the state into a record month for handle.”

Since the Supreme Court decision last year, more than $5.9 billion has been wagered in the eight states with legal sports betting, according to industry officials.

Next year, the legal handle could be even bigger, with another 23 states currently considering legalizing sports betting in some form.

Good To Know

The plurality of bettors so far favors Duke (29 percent) to win, followed by Gonzaga (9 percent), North Carolina (8 percent), Kentucky (7 percent), Virginia (5 percent) and Michigan (5 percent).

The odds of picking a perfect NCAA Tournament bracket is roughly 1 in 9.2 quintillion.

Related Links:

What's The Over-Under On The First Legal Super Bowl Betting Market?

What The Supreme Court's Sports Betting Ruling Means For States, Leagues And Online Sportsbooks

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