America has seen a boom in legalized sports betting over the past year, and March Madness betting will highlight that.
Nevada certainly remains the top dog, but New Jersey has come on strong. The Pennsylvania industry is still in its infancy but has plenty of room to grow, especially after it eventually launches online wagering.
Yet illegal offshore sportsbooks continue to thrive. The American Gaming Association (AGA) set out to determine how much legal versus illegal wagering will take place with March Madness betting.
How the March Madness survey happened
Over the first week of March, the AGA utilized Morning Consult to conduct an online survey among more than 11,000 adults. The study found that some 47 million people will wager on the NCAA men's basketball tournament, which began Tuesday with the First Four.
The AGA found that $8.5 billion will be bet during the tourney, shared by legal and illegal sportsbooks.
Legal sports betting continues to expand, but this report found that offshore operations and local bookies will still attract more action than regulated sportsbooks.
Illegal sports betting still popular
The survey weighted data to “approximate a target sample of adults.” Extrapolating from the results based on demographics, the association estimated that 19 percent of the population (47 million) will wager on NCAA tournament games.
That total is actually larger than the 40 million expected to simply fill out a bracket. (The AGA said bracket-builders will lay down $4.6 billion for entries.)
Of the 47 million placing bets, nearly 18 million people will combine for $3.9 billion in bets made online, at sportsbooks or with a bookie or friend.
In a conference call Monday, Sara Slane said parts of the study are “definitely more art than science.” The AGA senior vice president noted that people “are not necessarily forthcoming” about admitting they bet illegally.”
Breaking down the results
That total number of bettors breaks down more in favor of illegal means than regulated operations:
- 4.1 million will wager at a legal retail or online sportsbook
- 2.4 million will bet illegally with a bookie
- 5.2 million will bet online, likely at illegal offshore sites
All told, 7.6 million bettors will head to illegal bookmakers, compared with 4.1 million using legal means.
“These results indicate there's still work to do to eradicate the vast illegal sports betting market in this country,” AGA President and CEO Bill Miller said in a release, “and we're committed to ensuring sound policies are in place to protect customers, like the 47 million Americans who will bet on March Madness.”
March Madness betting could challenge Super Bowl
The 2019 NCAA Tournament will be the first in the post-PASPA world. That could make tournament March Madness betting even more popular than the Super Bowl.
According to Miller, “sports fans are expected to bet 40 (percent) more than they did on this year's Super Bowl.”
“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.”
Since the US Supreme Court repealed PASPA in spring 2018, the AGA noted more than $5.9 billion has been wagered at legal sportsbooks throughout the country.
How will legal sportsbooks do during March Madness?
Analysts with Legal Sports Report and The Lines believe the NCAA tournament could attract $400 million in legal wagers nationwide.
Broken down, Nevada could account for $300 million of that total, while New Jersey might bring in upward of $75 million. A group of six other states, including Pennsylvania, expects to combine for approximately $25 million.
March Madness trails only the Super Bowl in popularity among Nevadans. Yet the state still drew a record $459 million in March 2018 wagers, of which $300 million went toward the NCAA tourney.
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