March Madness is Big Business, How Big? Try $10 Billion



We’re in the midst of what many declare the greatest four days on the American sports calendar- the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Colloquially (and trademarked) known as “March Madness,” it’s a Thursday-Sunday span that sees a field of 64 college basketball teams swiftly reduced to 16.

In order to make this happen, the games start in late morning and run until very late in the evening. It’s a time when work productivity is at its lowest because, at least for these three weekends, just about everybody is a college basketball fan. The sport only enjoys a very tiny niche following the rest of the year, but for this month, it’s front and center.


That’s because March Madness is the second-biggest sports wagering event of the year, behind only the NFL’s Super Bowl. That’s why everybody gets mad for late March- it’s the gaming action on the games. Bracket pools, whether they be at the office, or with friends and family, are more pervasive than ever.

And you have individual wagers with or against the spread, prop betting etc. And it’s all only going to ramp up.

This year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament is a landmark event, and it could see more bets being placed than ever before.

That’s because it’s the first since the U.S. Supreme Court, with a ruling in May, provided the opening for legalized sports gambling in the United States.

This past spring, the highest court in the land found that each individual state should be granted the right to determine the legality of sports wagering within its own borders.

Because of this development, the American Gaming Association estimated last year that $10 billion will be staked on this year’s March Madness—though only a tiny fraction of it will be done legally (casinos or sports books).

How tiny a fraction of that giant sum remains to be seen, and is almost impossible to determine, but an AGA spokesman told Reuters that they believe $4.6 billion will be made in wagers from an estimated 40 million people betting with friends and colleagues through a total 149 million brackets.

As the country’s only legal sports betting jurisdiction last year, Nevada took in a record $459 million in wagering last March, with about $300 million of that being generated from the NCAA Tournament.

By comparison, the 2018 Super Bowl generated $158.6 million in wagers.

sports book

It’s food for thought going forward, as this is a market that’s set to explode in growth.

In the meantime, if you are looking to try and make money off this tournament, well, hopefully you picked one of the teams listed below to win it all as they have the most favorable odds of everybody in the field by a wide margin.

The consensus title favorites are Duke 2:1 (who play later tonight), followed by Gonzaga 6:1, (who eased by their first round opponent last night), Virginia 6:1 (who trailed at halftime in their first game, but eventually got it together), North Carolina 7:1 (in action later this evening), Michigan State 12:1 (who got a major scare from Bradley in their opening game and made national headlines over coach Tom Izzo’s temper tantrum), and Kentucky 12:1 (who demolished Abilene Christian in their opening game).

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC and Chicago, regularly appears as a guest pundit on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

He also contributes sociopolitical essays to Chicago NowFollow him on Twitter and Instagram. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to his.

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  1. […] Zalewski, who represents the 23rd district of Illinois, is working with state Rep. Bob Rita to lead House discussions on traditional gaming expansion. The beginning of discussions coincided with March Madness, one of the biggest and most lucrative sports wagering events on the calendar. […]

  2. […] on this issue. The process began at the same time that March Madness/the NCAA Tournament, one of the biggest and most lucrative sports wagering events of the calendar, […]

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