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The NCAA Men’s Tournament Meant One Thing – Busted Brackets And Gambling

Tatsuro Ogata / Flickr / Creative Commons

Wagering on the NCAA men's tournament is a multi-billion dollar business each year, and increasingly, becoming legal.

EAST LANSING, Mich. – The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is now in the books and for the first time people bet on it legally outside of Nevada. The American Gaming Association released their predictions for the 2019 tournament, showing that 47 million American adults planned to bet around $8.5 billion.

Before the tournament began, the AGA predicted that 40 million people would fill out a bracket. These 40 million adults would wager $4.6 billion on around 149 million brackets. It also found that 18 million people wagered $3.9 billion at a sports book, online, or with a bookie.

New Jersey, along with several other states, are new to the legal sports betting scene. This was the first NCAA tournament where New Jersey resident Nick Cretella can bet legally in his own state.

“Sometimes I’ll bet on the over-under of each game, the first and second half, full games, or future bets of who will win,” said Cretella, a student at Towson University. “Most of the time I take it game-by-game because it all depends on who’s playing and what the competition is.”

These 47 million adults, including Cretella, made some type of bet during the tournament, but only a small amount will be legal. The AGA said only 4.1 million people planned to bet at a sports book or on a legal online website. This is 4.1 million out of 47 million, so 42.9 million people will continue to go through illegal offshore bookies or through bracket pools.

Among the 47 million Americans who will place a bet, Duke was favored to win the tournament by 29 percent. The Blue Devils were followed by Gonzaga, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Virginia. Virginia, of course, ended up winning the tournament.

“I love watching the NCAA tournament. It’s such an exciting time of the year because there are so many different things to bet on in each game and in the tournament as a whole,” said Michigan resident Chad Leis. “Even though sports gambling isn’t legal here, I still like to do bracket pools with my friends and with people at work.”

When the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA) was overturned in May 2018, states were able to take free reign on whether they would make sports betting legal. In a statement made by AGA president and chief executive officer Bill Miller, he believes that more people will bet since there are more opportunities to do so in other U.S. states besides Nevada.

“During this year’s tournament – the first in post-PASPA America – sports fans are expected to bet 40% more than they did on this year’s Super Bowl,” said Miller. “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.”

With the addition of seven more states becoming legal, the AGA has found that about $6 billion has been collectively wagered in those states. New Jersey was the first to legalize it after PASPA was reversed. Cretella has been happy that he can finally wager on the tournament knowing that what he’s doing is lawful.

“I bet all year round no matter what sport it is, but March Madness is the most exciting because it’s on all day and there are so many opportunities to make more money,” said Cretella. “There’s no better feeling than watching a game with 10 of your friends going nuts over it.”

AGA’s extensive research also found that betting helps with fan engagement. Around 57 percent of adults agreed that if they wagered on a team who was in the Final Four, the games would be more entertaining. Deloitte published a recent report with similar results. For those who watch sports on TV, it concluded that 78 percent of men and 64 percent of women said they were more likely to watch a game if they wager on it.

Miller said the association is working to expand legalized sports betting, with the goal of putting a crimp on the illegal bookie schemes that have long dominated the industry in the United States. Sports gambling is already seen as a thriving industry in states that have passed it, so by pushing more states to become legal, gamblers would benefit as wagering would become more regulated and fair.


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