March Madness to Draw More than $3B in Bets, BetMGM Offering $10M Pool

Posted on: March 14, 2022, 11:32h. 

Last updated on: March 22, 2023, 10:16h.

The NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament commences this week, and with more states than ever allowing regulated sports betting, analysts expect a record handle for the event.

March Madness
Gonzaga players in a recent game. The NCAA Tournament is expected to generate a record betting handle this year. (Image: USA Today)

Approximately 45 million American adults plan to wager $3.1 billion on March Madness this year, according to the American Gaming Association (AGA). Nearly 21 million will bet outside the confines of bracket games, meaning they’ll place wagers online, at brick-and-mortar casinos, with local bookies, or among friends. AGA estimates “36.5 million Americans will wager via a bracket contest or similar pool.”

While NCAA Tournament brackets will always have a special place in the hearts of casual bettors and college hoops fans alike, the expansion of regulated sports betting in the US is expected to draw more gamblers to casinos and betting apps.

This year, Americans plan to place a greater share of their bets through non-bracket channels. Of their total betting budget on this year’s tournament, Americans expect to place 76 percent of their wagers outside of brackets, up from 55 percent last year,” notes the AGA.

Today, 30 states and Washington, DC offer some form of live and legal sports betting.

This March Madness, Geography Really Matters

The sheer number of American adults that have access to regulated sports wagering is exponentially higher for the 2022 NCAA Tournament compared to the 2021 number.

“Since last year’s tournament, 29 million more American adults can legally wager in their home state compared to March Madness 2021 with Arizona, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming launching new legal sports betting markets,” according to the AGA.

Some experts estimate March Madness, which is annually one of the most wagered-on events in the US, will triple the handle of the Super Bowl. Sixty-eight games in the tournament obviously help, but there are also some geographic benefits this year that are likely to play pivotal roles in driving NCAA Tournament betting to record heights.

For example, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, New York, and Pennsylvania are all hosting games this year. All of those states now offer mobile betting and Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania have extensive lineups of land-based casinos. The Final Four is taking place in New Orleans, home to a Caesars-operated integrated resort, as well as internet betting.

March Madness Odds and Ends

Gaming companies are finding other ways to capitalize on NCAA Tournament pandemonium. Earlier today, BetMGM said it’s offering a free-to-play game where $10 million will be awarded to anyone that picks a perfect bracket, and a $100,000 guaranteed prize to the top player without an unblemished bracket.

That comes after rival Bally’s said last week it will dole out $100 million to anyone that can assemble a perfect bracket. Neither gaming company needs to worry, because as the NCAA notes, the odds of piecing together an unscathed bracket are a staggering 1 in 9.2 quintillion.

“Bettors name Gonzaga (17 percent) as their favorite to win the tournament, followed by Duke (12 percent) and Kentucky (11 percent),” concludes the AGA.