March Madness was forced to take a year off last year because of COVID-19, but things are finally returning to normal. As the annual NCAA Men’s Basketball championship approaches later this week, the lineup has already been put in place, and fans are ready to rally for their favorite team.
Many will be rallying around the sportsbooks, as well, as sports gambling on this year’s March Madness is expected to return to previous levels. According to data just released from an American Gaming Association (AGA) survey, over 47 million Americans will place a wager sometime during the upcoming tournament.
Interest Runs High For March Madness Bets
An AGA press release details the predictions for March Madness gambling, adding that both land-based and online sportsbooks are expected to see more action this year compared to 2019, the last time the championship series was held. While the prediction is that the number of Americans betting on NCAA contests will be about the same as it was in 2019, it’s likely that the final result will be higher.
There are now 65.4 million more Americans able to place wagers at US sportsbooks, with more than 20 states having introduced legalized sports gambling since the Supreme Court shot down PASPA in 2018.
The final lineup of 68 teams for March Madness was determined yesterday when the bracket was revealed by the selection committee. The contests kick off this Thursday, instead of starting on a Tuesday, as has been seen in previous years, with the First Four. From there, Round 1 games will be held on Friday and Saturday, followed by the Second Round for the next two days. COVID-19 has forced schedule changes this year but hasn’t been able to stop the championship from moving forward.
In 2019, according to the AGA, around 17.8 million Americans turned to traditional gambling options for March Madness. This is expected to increase, now reaching as much as 30.6 million.
This comes, in part, due to an increase in interest for March Madness, which has grown from 23% in 2019 to 26% this year. Much of the gambling activity will take place through online sportsbooks, with 17.8 million Americans forecast to place an online bet. This is an increase of 206% over the 5.8 million from 2019.
US Sports Gambling Continues Expansion
The uptick is a definite result of a sports gambling expansion in the US Explains AGA President and CEO Bill Miller, “The sports betting landscape has changed dramatically since 2019, and as a result, tournament betting has transformed. As consumers formerly limited to bracket contests now enjoy access to legal sportsbook options, they also plan to place traditional sports bets as March Madness returns.”
While the interest may be up for this year’s March Madness, some gamblers are going to run into issues. A few states, such as New Jersey and Virginia, prohibit wagers on in-state schools.
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights out of N.J., for the first time in 30 years, will be in March Madness, taking on the Clemson Tigers in Round 1. Both the Virginia Cavaliers and the Virginia Tech Hokies are in, as well, but in-state fans of these teams won’t be able to place wagers unless they look for out-of-state options. The Gonzaga Bulldogs are still the team to watch, though, as they enter the tournament in the first place and with an undefeated record.