There will be plenty of action this week with the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament’s 64-team first round starting Thursday afternoon. It is a big deal considering this year’s tournament is the first March Madness since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed legal sports betting to move forward.
According to the American Gaming Association’s press release on Monday, Americans plan to gamble $8.5 million on the tournament.
By the AGA’s estimate, one in 5 U.S. adults will place a wager.
The survey found that an estimated 47 million adults in the United States will join the betting action – and $4.6 billion will be wagered on a total of 149 million brackets fill out by more than 40 million people.
The most glaring number: “18 million people will wager $3.9 billion at a sportsbook, online, with a bookie or with a friend.”
Also, according to the AGA’s study, 4.1 million gamblers will place a bet via a casino sportsbook or a legal app, 2.4 million bettors will bet illegally with a bookie, and 5.2 million gamblers will bet online, “likely at illegal offshore sites.”
This study was conducted on the behalf of the AGA by Morning Consult between March 1-7 among a sample of 11,002 adults nationally. It includes theoretical sports betting handle in the eight states where the practice is legal and pots from pools that overtake the American workplace each spring.
“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,” AGA president and chief executive officer Bill Miller said Monday.
“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.”
Sara Slane, the Senior Vice President of Public Affairs for the AGA, said the organization contunies to focus on curtailing the overall prominence of illegal offshore sportsbooks or domestic books in college basketball betting.
Office pools are still technically against the law in most states but she said that’s not a major focus for the AGA.
“We're not looking to be the fun police. That’s not our objective,” Slane said. “Clearly, people enjoy betting on the bracket and doing office pools.
“I think the larger point just goes to the fact that a couple of things: No. 1, this is such a massive part of our culture. People enjoy betting on sports and I think that's why you've seen such a wide range of acceptance throughout the United States to see legalized sports betting.
“And then secondarily, it highlights the fact that, yes, while it may be illegal, there is the opportunity now to make it legal and to regulate it and to recapture that revenue.”
Per the AGA, $5.9 billion has been gambled legally in the United States since Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia joined Nevada in accepting legal sports bets.
Those numbers show the NCAA Men’s Tournament’s true effect on the market. The AGA estimated that $6 billion would be bet on February’s Super Bowl LIII between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams, but it is clear that the buzz around March Madness is real and could easily beat those numbers.
“Today's research certainly validates what most of us have known for a long time: Americans like to bet on sports and Americans do bet on sports,” Miller said in a national teleconference.
On the flip side, additional states with legalized wagering and a modification in modeling have resulted in a much lower 2019 estimate than the $10.4 billion forecast in 2018, per AGA officials.
David Forman, Senior Director of Research for the AGA, said the trade organization has no data on the conversion rate of pool bettors to casual sports bettors, “but this is something that is certainly of great interest to the daily fantasy operators who have gotten into the sports betting space.”