68 Million Americans Expected To Bet On March Madness

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The men’s and women’s NCAA Tournament fields were revealed Sunday night, giving basketball junkies a chance to dive into this year’s brackets. Plenty of bettors are already studying the matchups as well, with 68 million American adults expected to wager on this year’s NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament, according to a survey from the American Gaming Association.

The AGA survey projects that those bettors will wager $15.5 billion on the event. The total number of bettors is expected to be higher than the 50 million people the AGA projected to wager on the Super Bowl, but the NCAA Tournament’s projected handle is about $500 million less than the Super Bowl projection.

“March Madness is one of the best traditions in American sports — and America’s most wagered-on competition,” AGA President and CEO Bill Miller said in a press release. “Critically, the expansion of regulated sports betting over the past five years has brought safeguards to more than half of American adults who can now bet legally in their home market.”  

Legal sports betting is available in over 33 states and Washington, D.C. Massachusetts is the latest to launch legal mobile sports betting, with digital platforms going live in the state last week. 

Bracket contests still popular

Increased opportunities for Americans to wager legally on sports hasn’t ruined the popularity of bracket contests. The AGA survey, which was conducted by Morning Consult and surveyed a national sample of 2,200 adults, projects that 56.3 million Americans plan to participate in a bracket contest. 

Additionally, 31 million Americans expect to place a traditional sports wager either through a mobile sportsbook, a retail location, or a bookie. More than 20 million Americans are expected to wager casually with friends. 

Miller made a point that regardless of how fans are putting money on NCAA Tournament games, they should do so while following responsible gambling best practices.

“With the excitement around March Madness, the AGA and our members want to remind anyone getting in on the action to have a game plan to bet responsibly,” Miller said. “That means setting a budget, knowing the odds, keeping it social, and always playing legally.”

John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats, a No. 6 seed in the tournament’s East Region, were the most popular pick (9%) among respondents to win the national championship. Granted, the survey was conducted from March 1-3, so the survey participants didn’t yet know the NCAA Tournament draw. Texas A&M (8%), Gonzaga, UCLA, and Alabama (all 6%) were also popular picks. 

FanDuel pegs Houston (+500) as the betting favorite entering the event, although the health of Marcus Sasser may determine the Cougars’ fate. Alabama (+800), Kansas (+1000), and Purdue (+1200) are also considered top national title contenders on FanDuel. Kentucky’s national title odds are listed at +3400.


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