Wagering on this year’s NCAA March Madness could triple the nearly $1bn in wagers taken in on last month’s NFL Super Bowl LVI, according to PlayUSA.
PlayUSA has added that legal wagering at regulated US sportsbooks on the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball tournament could reach $3bn this year. This year’s tournament could also surpass the 2021 edition as “the most bet-on sporting event in US history”.
“Wagering on March Madness typically dwarfs the Super Bowl, and this year the difference could be dramatic,” said Eric Ramsey, an analyst for PlayUSA.com.
“The high betting volume is a function of the NCAA Tournament’s popularity coupled with 67 games played over a condensed schedule of just a few weeks. Add in the proliferation of legalized sports betting across the US, and this year will easily shatter the record for the most bet-on event set last year by March Madness.”
PlayUSA is predicting a handle between $2.5bn and $3bn at legal US sportsbooks for this year’s March Madness, which is much higher than the estimated $1.4 bn in wagers placed on the tournament in 2021.
The growth in betting is due to the expansion of sports betting across the US, where 30 states and Washington DC have legalized. In the past year, Arizona, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming launched new legal sports betting markets.
Out of the US states that have legalized sports betting, only Oregon has a ban on college sports betting, while states like Illinois, New Jersey, and Virginia prohibit betting on in-state college teams.
While the 2020 tournament was called off, the 2019 edition drew an estimated $440m handle. Only seven states had legalized sports betting at the time.
The top three markets for NCAA tournament betting – New York, New Jersey, and Nevada – are expected to draw roughly $400m in handle each from this year’s tournament.
Dustin Gouker, the lead analyst for PlayUSA.com, stated: “Sixty-seven games is a ton of inventory, even if all those games are played under the banner of a single event. For years, though, Nevada has counted on the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament as a prime opportunity to draw hordes of bettors to brick-and-mortar sportsbooks on the Strip.
“Vegas will still draw huge crowds next week, but now roughly half of the country can get in on the action without ever leaving the couch.”
Last year, every March Madness game was played in Indiana. While it is one of the US’ largest legal sports betting markets, wagering activity in the state during the tournament didn’t budge too much due to limited fan attendance.
Six March Madness sites will be played in legal sports betting jurisdictions this year, including the Final Four in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Ramsey added: “This year will look considerably different than last year’s tournament. Thousands of fans will be traveling to games in Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, New York, and Pennsylvania, over the course of the tournament. How much of a boost that will be to local sportsbooks is still an open question. But it will make a difference.”