The American Gaming Association (AGA) is estimating that Americans will wager US$9.2bn on March Madness this year.
The number marks an increase from 2015, when fans and casual observers alike bet $9bn, through office pools, Nevada sports books, illicit offshore sites and illegal bookies.
The total number of brackets Americans will complete – more than 70 million this year – will likely surpass the number of ballots voters cast for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or any other single presidential candidate in the November election. In 2012, 65 million Americans voted for President Obama while 61 million voted for Mitt Romney. No presidential candidate has ever received 70 million votes. (Obama came closest when he received 69 million votes in 2008.)
“Americans’ passion for betting fuels the unmatched popularity of March Madness,” said Geoff Freeman, AGA president and CEO. “Betting increasingly drives sports fans—and even casual observers—to invest in the tournament, offering further evidence that sports betting is the new national pastime. It’s time for a fresh, rational approach to sports betting that reflects this reality.”
In a sign of how Americans embrace sports betting, President Obama fills out brackets on ESPN in the Oval Office each year ahead of the tournament. The President also said after this year’s Super Bowl that “I call the winning team to congratulate them. And sometimes I call the losing team, especially if I bet on them.”
AGA released research last year found that 40 million people fill out brackets; the average person completes nearly two brackets; the average bet per bracket totals $29; and that half of all March Madness viewers have filled out a bracket at least once in their lifetime.
Of the $9.2bn that will be wagered this year, only about $262m will be bet legally at Nevada sports books. The total illegal sports betting market in the United States grew to $148.8bn in 2015.
In a major shift last November following months of study and deliberation by AGA and its members, the casino gaming industry announced its intent to study the implications of current law and to build a coalition to determine if rational, legal alternatives exist. In the large and growing illegal sports betting market, consumer protections are non-existent and law enforcement lack tools to protect the integrity of games. AGA has launched a new website dedicated to this effort that serves as the hub of its campaign to educate and inform stakeholders and allies. The site includes up-to-date news, research and information on this dynamic issue.