The NCAA Tournament Is Finally Here–Let Sports Betting Madness Begin

Posted on March 21, 2019 - Last Updated on November 25, 2019

Now that Selection Sunday has passed and March Madness has officially begun, which means a whole lot of brackets, beer and basketball viewing.

But this year’s NCAA tournament comes with a bonus: legal regulated sports betting outside the state of Nevada.

March Madness + sports betting

To that extent, DraftKings has launched two new online gambling games worth a total of $164,000. Last week, the daily fantasy sports turned sportsbook operator released its Bracket product for March Madness on its sportsbook app. Customers can enter several different public and private bracket contests during various rounds of the tournament and win cash for their selections.

The first contest is for New Jersey players only. Customers pay $20 to enter with a chance at $100,000.

The second is a “free-to-play” national bracket challenge worth $64,000.

“As American sports fans during March Madness, we are all playing free bracket contest with our friends, family, and co-workers,” Matt Kalish, DraftKings chief revenue officer, and co-founder said in a statement.

“By launching Brackets on DraftKings Sportsbook, we are bringing the number one way fans engage with March Madness to the biggest state — DraftKings’ industry-leading fantasy sports and sportsbook apps,” he said.

Who will be placing March Madness bets?

Kalish is correct in his assessment that people will be betting and filling out brackets across the country. Last year, the US Supreme Court did away with the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which limited sports wagering within the borders of Nevada.

For the first time, Americans will be able to bet on the NCAA tournament in eight states including Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

According to a new study released by the American Gaming Association (AGA), one in five adults will be placing bets on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Additionally, 40 million (16 percent) of people will fill out a bracket.

Collectively, American adults will wager $8.5 billion on the upcoming tournament, the study found.

“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 CEO, 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,” Miller said.

The AGA study also found 7 percent of Americans (18 million), will wager $3.6 billion at a sportsbook, online, with a bookie or with a friend.

Additional findings

The AGA survey was conducted by Morning Consult between March 1-7, 2019 among a national sample size of 11,002 adults in the US.

  • 4.1 million will bet at a casino sportsbook or using a legal app.
  • $4.6 billion will be wagered on a collective 149 million brackets by more than 40 million people.
  • 2.4 million people will bet illegally with a bookie.
  • 5.2 million will bet online, likely at illegal offshore sites.
  • Among the 47 million who will place some kind of bet, the Duke Bluedevils (29 percent) is the favorite to win.

The AGA estimates, since the US Supreme Court ruling, more than $5.9 billion has been wagered in the eight states with legal, regulated sports betting.

“These results indicate there’s still work to do to eradicate the vast illegal sports betting market in this country, and we’re committed to ensuring sound policies are in place to protect consumers, like the 47 million Americans who will bet on March Madness,” Miller said.

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Gambling responsibly

Although Miller and the AGA have acknowledged consumer protections need to be in place, states have done very little in terms of adding responsible gambling language in sports betting bills.

Keith Whyte, executive director for the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), told ESPN, the organization is concerned about the rapid expansion of legalized sports betting.

Here is more from Whyte:

“We believe many people with gambling problems have a very tough time when there is so much discussion of brackets and buzzer beaters. For sports bettors with a gambling problem, March Madness is an apt description of their pain and suffering.”

Along with the two new Bracket contest released by DrafKings, the company said college basketball and sports betting fans alike could expect more contest to open before the beginning of the tournament.

Nicholaus Garcia Avatar
Written by
Nicholaus Garcia

Nick has had stints in Chicago, writing about local politics, and in Washington, D.C., covering the expanding gambling industry. Now back in Chicago, he continues to write about the emerging sports betting market with a focus on the Midwest. Originally from West Texas, he graduated from Texas Tech University and completed his master's degree in journalism at Columbia College Chicago.

View all posts by Nicholaus Garcia
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