AGA estimates Americans will legally wager $2.72B on March Madness

March Madness is one of the biggest times of the year for U.S. sports betting and the American Gaming Association (AGA) is expecting nothing different this year.

In new projections released this week, the AGA suggests that Americans will wager $2.72 billion on NCAA men’s and women’s college basketball in the next two weeks through legal avenues. If that number does indeed materialize, it would represent 2.2% of the total handle wagered legally in 2023.

That estimated handle is nearly twice as much as the total that is believed to have been wagered on this year’s Super Bowl ($1.4 billion), Dave Forman, the AGA’s head of research, told ESPN. The projected numbers are based on U.S. states’ monthly sports betting revenue reports and only take into account bets placed on the NCAA tournaments with U.S. sportsbooks.

A recent Eilers and Krejcik Gaming research report suggests that 35% to 40% of the amount bet on the men’s NCAA tournament will come from in-game wagers, reflecting the continued rise of live wagering and microbetting and its increased intertwining with sports broadcasting.

Eilers and Krejcik, whose own projections for this year’s March Madness come in very close to the AGA’s at $2.68 billion, reports that if that in-game betting percentage is accurate, it would represent an increase of around five percentage points on last year’s March Madness.

Refining the predictions

This year’s $2.7 billion number is down hugely from the $15.5 billion the AGA cited in its estimates for 2023 March Madness.

However, those gargantuan figures last year included projected illegal and unlicensed market betting and casual bracket-based bets. The AGA said last year that around one-quarter of all Americans would place some kind of March Madness wager, with 31 million using an official sportsbook, 21.5 million betting casually with friends, and 56.3 million participating in the popular bracket contest system.

Forman added that the AGA has decided to focus its March Madness projections solely on legal, licensed betting to recognize the market’s growth and spread across America.

“March Madness is the biggest and most mainstream betting event of the year, especially with the brackets,” Forman told ESPN. “But with legal sports betting having been around now for five years and available in almost 40 states, we wanted to turn our focus to the legal market.”

New York leads the way, new states and operators enter fray

While the AGA projections don’t offer a state-by-state breakdown, Eilers and Krejcik’s report concludes that New York will lead the way in March Madness betting. The Empire State is anticipated to generate $391.2 million in betting handle, almost 15% of the total nationwide sum.

New Jersey and Illinois are expected to follow in second and third with 11.6% and 10.4% of the nationwide share, respectively. Bettors in North Carolina‘s new legal betting market are expected to bet around $221 million on the tournament, which would rank fourth in the country.

Meanwhile, as well as North Carolina being online for the first time during a March Madness tournament this year, two new operators in ESPN Bet and Fanatics will also be taking bets during the tournament for the first time in something of a new era for Madness betting.

With March Madness betting available to more states’ residents and through more channels than ever before, operators and organizations across America are being proactive in combating problem gambling for the remainder of the sports calendar in 2024.