AGA Estimates $8.5 Billion to be Wagered on NCAA Tournament

AGA Estimates $8.5 Billion to be Wagered on NCAA Tournament

A study commissioned by the American Gaming Association estimates that roughly $8.5 billion will be wagered beginning this week on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, the most lucrative sports betting market in the United States.

Around 47 million Americans are expected to participate in March Madness betting in some way, according to the study.

The research, conducted by Morning Consult between March 1-7, includes theoretical sports betting handle in the eight states where the practice is currently legal and underway and pots from pools that overtake the American workplace each spring.

The study estimates that $4.6 billion will be wagered “on a collective 149 million brackets by more than 40 million people” and that “18 million people will wager $3.9 billion at a sportsbook, online, with a bookie or with a friend.”

According to the study, 4.1 million will place a bet at a casino sportsbook or using a legal app, 2.4 million will bet illegally with a bookie, and 5.2 million will bet online, “likely at illegal offshore sites.”

By The Numbers

AGA Focus on Reducing Offshore Impact

While acknowledging that even office pools are technically illegal in most states, Sara Slane, senior vice president of public affairs for the AGA, said the group’s focus remains on curtailing the prominence of illegal offshore sports books or domestic bookies in college basketball betting.

“We're not looking to be the fun police. That’s not our objective,” Slane said. “Clearly, people enjoy betting on the bracket and doing office pools. I think the larger point just goes to the fact that a couple of things: No. 1, this is such a massive part of our culture.

“People enjoy betting on sports and I think that's why you've seen such a wide range of acceptance throughout the United States to see legalized sports betting.

“And then secondarily, it highlights the fact that, yes, while it may be illegal, there is the opportunity now to make it legal and to regulate it and to recapture that revenue.”

Post-PASPA America Reaches Biggest Sports Marker

The NCAA Tournament is another marker on the landscape of legal sports betting in the United States, as it is the first since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was repealed by the Supreme Court.

According to the AGA, $5.9 billion has been wagered legally in the United States since Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia joined Nevada in the enterprise.

That figure, alone, demonstrates the might of the NCAA tourney market in comparison. Not even the Super Bowl compares, thanks in part to the length of the NCAA Tournament. The AGA estimated that $6 billion would be bet on the Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams.

“While the illegal market continues to persist, the landscape for American sports betting has shifted dramatically since last year's tournament,” AGA president and CEO Bill Miller said in a national teleconference.

“The opportunity to legalize sports betting outside of Nevada materialized for the first time in more than a quarter century and seven states moved quickly to capitalize.

“Today's research certainly validates what most of us have known for a long time: Americans like to bet on sports and Americans do bet on sports.

With legal alternatives taking hold, those of us who like to bet on sports now have safer ways to engage our favorite teams under the umbrella of consumer protections that regulation provides."

Why Did the 2019 March Madness Handle Projection Plummet?

AGA officials said additional states with legal wagering, and a modification in modeling, resulted in a much lower 2019 estimate than the $10.4 billion 2018 forecast.

The survey polled 11,002 adults online, according to an AGA release, “and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of adults based on age, race/ethnicity, gender, educational attainment and region,” with a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percent.

Bettors, the release said, “include those who expect to place a bet online, with a bookie, with a casino sportsbook, casually with a friend or participate in a bracket contest.”

David Forman, senior director of research for the AGA, told that the trade organization has no data on the conversion rate of pool bettors to casual sports bettors, “but this is something that is certainly of great interest to the daily fantasy operators who have gotten into the sports betting space.”

Forman added that it’s premature to judge the success of new offerings from operators in the seven new sports betting states, particularly those that could entice all those potential new customers. Last week, 888sport and DraftKings unveiled bracket-style games reminiscent of traditional office pool sheets.

Infographic: AGA March Madness Study

AGA March Madness Infographic

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