New data published by the American Gaming Association (AGA) indicates that more than 47 million Americans will place bets on the 2021 March Madness tournament. The report predicts dramatic growth in online and physical sportsbook betting compared to 2019, compensating for lower expected participation in bracket contests.
While the overall number of Americans betting is flat from 2019, there have been significant shifts in how people plan to bet on the tournament this year. Bracket betting is expected to decline, but more traditional sports bets placed online or at a brick-and-mortar sportsbooks are expected to more than double.
Since the 2019 tournament, 65.4 million more Americans have gained the opportunity to bet safely in legal markets in 13 new jurisdictions.
Association President and CEO Bill Miller explained: “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.
“With more legal, regulated sports betting options than ever before, millions of customers now have safer ways to enjoy all the fun and suspense only March Madness provides.”
Key findings from the survey, conducted by Morning Consult, show that 36.7 million Americans will fill out a bracket, down 8% from 2019, and that 30.6 million Americans will place more traditional bets on this year’s tournament, up from 17.8 million in 2019.
Crucially, 17.8 million will place a bet online, up 206% from 5.8 million in 2019, while 8.3 million will place a bet at a physical sportsbook, up 79% from 2019.
Interest in the tournament is up slightly from 2019, with 26% of Americans saying they are extremely or very interested in the tournament, compared to 23% two years ago.
Meanwhile, 42% of fans said they followed college basketball more closely this season, with 70% of those following more closely attributing their increased attention either somewhat or very significantly to the increased availability of legal sports betting.
Gonzaga University is the betting public’s favorite to win the tournament (17%), followed by Florida State University (11%) and Baylor University (8%).
Miller added: “These figures clearly demonstrate sports betting’s popularity as the legal sports betting market expands. Since Virginia cut down the nets in 2019, 65.4 million more Americans in 13 new legal jurisdictions can safely place bets on the tournament.
“Legal sports betting also continues to prove its value to fan engagement, with 70% of college basketball fans who were more interested in this year’s season attributing their elevated attention to increased access to legal action closer to home.”