March Madness to see record-breaking $10.4bn in betting

  • $10.4bn represents a $1bn increase on 2016 betting
  • The vast majority of betting in the US will deemed be ILLEGAL
  • Legalized sports betting debate reignites as sports commissioners begin to change minds

This year’s March Madness will shatter records for sports betting, with over $10.4 billion in wagers placed, according to the American Gaming Association.

March Madness bettors multi-billion
March Madness has thrilled the bettors this year with record amounts wagered.

The figure represents a 13% rise on last year’s betting, as the popularity of friendly and office betting pools for the tournament continues to soar.

Part of the reason that this year has seen so many wagers is the fact that the field is so open – bookmakers appear to have no consensus on a clear favourite, with Kansas, Duke and North Carolina all variously tipped as most likely to win the championship by the likes of MGM, William Hill and Caesars. With no obvious favourite, the chance for plenty of teams to win seems to have inspired even more people than usual to join betting pools.

A perfect storm?

Perhaps the most striking thing about the amount of money gambled during March Madness is that some 96% of the bets will be placed illegally, with sports betting illegal in almost all of the US. While the authorities tend to turn a blind eye to the practice during March Madness, the event often sees some lawmakers and industry experts reopen the debate around sports betting, with increased calls for the practice to be legalized.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver was among those in favor of repealing the ban on sports betting, and the AGA have been leading the calls for a chance in the law. President Geoff Freeman recently spoke of a “perfect storm” in favour of legalization. “You have leagues, you have broadcasters, you have law enforcement, you have the casino industry — everyone is acknowledging that we are better off having a regulated environment,” he said.

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