March Madness: Over $10 Billion to be Wagered

The annual March Madness craze, that time when 68 teams will fight for the right to be men’s basketball national champion, begins on Tuesday and Wednesday with four play-in games, followed by the full field playing Thursday and Friday.

It is estimated that Americans will complete over 70 million tournament brackets and risk an average of $29 per bracket that will contribute to what is expected to be over $10.4 billion bet on the overall tournament. Those estimates were released by the American Gaming Association on Monday.

The expected handle of more than $10.4 billion bet on the NCAA basketball tournament includes office pools and has been increased by over 13% from just last year’s March Madness tournament, said the AGA in its report on Monday.

Just a small fraction of what is bet on the tournament, or approximately 3%, will be legally wagered in the U.S. The vast majority of the remaining more than $10 billion will be bet using online sportsbooks offshore and with local bookies, said the AGA, which represents the casino industry in the U.S.

Duke and North Carolina are currently favored at 6 to 1 to win the tournament by most bookmakers in Las Vegas, despite the fact the Blue Devils were not given a No. 1 seed in any of the four regions of the tournament.

Duke is a No. 2 seed in the same region, the East, as No. 1 overall seed Villanova the reigning national champions.

As gambling each year grows on the NCAA Tournament, NCAA officials remain opposed to every form of betting on sports both legal and illegal.

The NCAA believes betting could undermine the integrity of the sport and impact negatively on the welfare of the NCAA student-athlete.

On the other hand, the commissioner of the NBA Adam Silver came out in support of legalizing and regulating betting on pro sports. Silver believes a framework of regulations set up by the federal government would protect the integrity of sports the best.

Commissioners for the PGA, MLS, MLB and the NHL have said publicly they were open to the possibility of legalizing sports betting.

The figures released by the AGA on the number of brackets that will be filled were gleaned from a poll that Gfk Custom Research North America conducted.

Currently the only places that sports betting is legal is in four states – Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana – but the vast majority is in Nevada home to the Las Vegas and Reno casinos.