Online wagering will help set a record for March Madness betting
Legal wagering on the 2022 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament could balloon to as much as $3 billion this year at regulated U.S. sportsbooks, according to projections from PlayUSA, a leading source for news, analysis, and research on the U.S. gaming industry. Another report says it could reach $10 billion. In fact, NCAA Tournament-specific wagering could triple the nearly $1 billion in wagers taken in on last month's Super Bowl LVI, and top the 2021 NCAA Tournament as the most bet-on sporting event in U.S. history.
"Wagering on March Madness typically dwarfs the Super Bowl, and this year the difference could be dramatic," said Eric Ramsey, 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 U.S., and this year will easily shatter the record for the most bet-on event set last year by March Madness."
PlayUSA.com expects a range of between $2.5 billion and $3 billion to be wagered at legal sportsbooks across the country. That will be a significant jump from the PlayUSA estimated $1.4 billion in wagers placed on last year's NCAA Tournament.
The growth in NCAA tournament betting is a direct reflection of the growth in the U.S. market, which has doubled in size over the last year as new markets launched and existing markets expanded.
Currently sports betting is legal in 30 states and Washington D.C. Of those, only Oregon bans betting on college sports entirely, while a handful of states such as Illinois, New Jersey, and Virginia restrict betting on in-state college teams. Still, the 29 legal jurisdictions in the U.S. that allow college sports betting represent a population of nearly 163 million people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau estimates for 2021. By contrast, 116 million people lived in 21 legal sports betting jurisdictions for last year's NCAA Tournament.
The 2020 tournament was canceled, but in 2019 the tournament drew an estimated $440 million in bets when just seven states had legal sports betting.
"Sixty-seven games is a ton of inventory, even if all those games are played under the banner of a single event," said Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for PlayUSA.com. "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."
The top three markets for NCAA Tournament betting, New York, New Jersey, and Nevada, should draw roughly $400 million in handle apiece. New York has rocketed into becoming the largest sports betting market in the country since launching online sports betting in January. New Jersey topped the U.S. last year. And Nevada will generate more retail bets than any other market by a wide margin.
Last year, every NCAA Tournament game was played in Indiana, one of the largest legal sports betting markets in the U.S. But with fans limited, the bump in wagering activity in the state was muted.
This year, six tournament sites will be played in legal sports betting jurisdictions. That includes the Final Four in New Orleans, where sports betting launched in January. Legions of traveling fans could spur betting in those locations.
"This year will look considerably different than last year's tournament," Ramsey said. "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."
For more information on NCAA Tournament betting, visit www.playusa.com/march-madness-betting/.