March Madness Expected to Generate $2.72B in Legal College Hoops Bets

Posted on: March 19, 2024, 09:10h. 

Last updated on: March 19, 2024, 10:23h.

This year’s March Madness tournaments will generate more legal bets in the United States than ever before.  That’s because sports betting is now regulated in 38 states, plus Washington, D.C.

March Madness handle sports betting
Iowa Hawkeyes star Caitlin Clark celebrates after setting the NCAA single-season three-point record on March 9, 2024. The 2024 women’s and men’s March Madness college basketball tournaments are expected to generate record sports betting action. (Image: Getty)

The 2024 NCAA Division 1 men’s and women’s basketball tournaments tip off Tuesday night with the men’s First Four games. The women’s bracket gets underway on Wednesday with the First Four play-in contests.

On the men’s side, the top-seeded University of Connecticut Huskies are the favorites at +360. The three other No. 1 seeds are Houston (+550), Purdue (+700), and North Carolina (+1300). Arizona, a two-seed, has slightly shorter odds of cutting down the nets than UNC at +1200.

The men’s Final Four will take place at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

On the women’s side, the undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks are the heavy favorites at -140. Iowa, highlighted by Caitlin Clark’s historic and record-breaking season, is a distant second at +550.

LSU, which was entangled in a scuffle near the end of their SEC title match with South Carolina, is third at +750. Texas and Stanford round out the top five at +1500.

Record Action

The American Gaming Association (AGA) expects U.S. adults to legally wager a record $2.72 billion on this year’s men’s and women’s March Madness tournaments. The anticipated record is due to heightened interest in the women’s game and more legal sports betting outlets today than ever before.

At this time last year, five fewer states allowed bettors to place legal, regulated nontribal sports bets. Since last year’s March Madness, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, Nebraska, and Vermont all joined the commercial sports betting industry.

As each state goes online, we’re seeing that migration of Americans from the illegal marketplace to the legal marketplace, and that’s driving demand,” said Cait DeBaun, the AGA’s vice president of strategic communications and responsibility.

While the NFL Super Bowl is the most-bet single game each year in the U.S., March Madness is the largest betting event. Along with the estimated $2.72 billion in legal bets on the college hoops tournaments this year, the AGA believes another $15 billion will be bet through unregulated channels like bookies, offshore sportsbooks, and among friends via bracket challenges.

Clark Effect Fueling Surge

Fox Sports disclosed earlier this month that its women’s basketball coverage this year out-rated its men’s games.

The women’s games averaged 981K viewers, while men’s games attracted an average of less than 950K viewers. Fox covered a record 14 women’s games and about 40 men’s games.

Games involving Iowa and Clark fueled the surge. The Hawkeyes’ 93-83 win over then-No. 2 Ohio State in early March, which saw Clark set the NCAA’s all-time scoring mark, attracted nearly 3.4 million viewers. The game set a new regular-season viewership record for a women’s college basketball game.

Women’s hoops television ratings were up 60% year over year, Sportico reported.

ABC/ESPN, which is televising the women’s March Madness tournament, is hoping for a deep run by Iowa. The Hawkeyes begin their pursuit of their first NCAA title (they finished runner-up last year to LSU) on Saturday on ABC at 3:30 p.m. ET at the Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

The women’s Final Four will be played in Cleveland at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.