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March Madness Next Up for Bustling US Legal Sports Betting Industry

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March Madness Next Up for Bustling US Legal Sports Betting Industry
A general view of a 'March Madness'. Photo by Patrick Smith / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

On the heels of Super Bowl 55, the most wagered NFL Championship game in history, the US legal sports betting industry now has its sights focused on what has the potential to be the most bet-on tournament in history, March Madness.

Following the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Basketball Championship Tournament, the appetite for this year’s college spectacle is set up to shatter betting records that once seemed inconceivable in the US sports scene, let alone collegiate sports.

An estimated 47 million people – one in five American adults bet a combined $8.5 billion on March Madness in 2019, the last time the tournament was held. That was during a period that had only eight states with their own legal sports betting platform.

Heading into the 2021 National Collegiate Athletic Association’s tournament, there are 20 jurisdictions with their own legal platform with almost half of Americans now allowed to place a legal wager.

The Importance of the Tournament

March is typically a down-time in the sporting world if not for March Madness, which most agree is one of the most anticipated annual Tournaments in sports. It’s not just water-cooler talk, but it is also one of the most lucrative times for sportsbooks and all that are involved in the culmination of the NCAA basketball season.

68 teams enter the three-week Tournament and only one emerges. It’s 63 games to bet on in just over 21 days with plenty of value and intrigue for casual fans and bettors alike. Unfortunately, games will be played without fans this year in an “Indiana-bubble”, to prevent COVID-19 from affecting any of the action, on and off the court.

Traditionally, March Madness has ranked behind just one North American sporting event in terms of bet-ability – the Super Bowl. Optimism for this year is that the Tournament could even surpass Super Bowl 55 betting levels because of the cross-section of teams involved, plus the new legal jurisdictions that have been added to the US scene since the last time March Madness tipped off.

About Those Jurisdictions

The US legal sports betting scene has exploded since March 2019, the last time the NCAA College Basketball Championship Tournament was played. The legal betting scene in the US has increased from eight to 20 legal jurisdictions over that time. Colorado, Illinois, and Michigan have become major monthly players in the US legal scene – other smaller markets are setting handle-records in the states they operate as well.

New Jersey, the most successful legal betting state hit nearly a $1 billion December handle – that state should contribute its fair share of NCAA basketball betting. Nevada, which has traditionally thrived during the month of March, despite having a difficult time right now, should also be strong. Pennsylvania and Indiana are primed for big College Basketball betting numbers in March.

What Could Be

A study recently by Eilers & Krejcik gaming analysts showed that if all 50 US states offering legalized sports betting, the betting handle for March Madness could eclipse $15.2 billion with $1.2 billion collected in revenue.

There may not be 50 states participating in legal March Madness betting this year, but the ones that are will have no problem drawing their share of action. The US legal sports betting scene is currently at a level that is hard to imagine and the Tournament, because of that, will perhaps have a higher profile than any other year in its history.

Super Bowl 55 showed what the industry is capable of within the states with a legal sports betting platform. It’s “buckle-up” time for sportsbooks and for bettors in the US. Sportsbooks will be out with their typically incredible March Madness promotions, and the wagering public is sure to jump on for what is always a wild ride.