More than 47 million Americans are expected to place bets on this year’s March Madness tournament — flat from 2019 numbers, despite 65.4 million Americans gaining the ability to bet in legal markets.
The way Americans place their bets this year is expected to shift, with fewer bracket bets and more online or brick-and-mortar wagers. The findings come from a Sunday report from the American Gaming Association, a national trade group representing the $261 billion U.S. casino industry.
“The sports betting landscape has changed dramatically since 2019 – and as a result, tournament betting has transformed,” AGA President and CEO Bill Miller said in the release. “As consumers formerly limited to bracket contests now enjoy access to legal sportsbook options, they also plan to place traditional sports bets as March Madness returns.”
Shifting preferences among bettors
In March 2019, just eight markets had launched legal sports betting in the United States. Today, there are 21.
“With more legal, regulated sports betting options than ever before, millions of customers now have safer ways to enjoy all the fun and suspense only March Madness provides,” Miller said in the release.
Interest in this year’s tournament has grown compared with 2019 levels, with 26 percent of respondents saying they are “extremely” or “very” interested in the tournament, up from 23 percent two years ago.
According to the AGA’s findings, nearly 37 million Americans plan to fill out a bracket, down 8 percent from 2019. More than 8 million plan to place a bet at a physical sportsbook, up 79 percent from 2019, while 17.8 million plan to place a bet online, up 206 percent.
Gonzaga University is the favorite to win among respondents with 17 percent of the vote, followed by Florida State University with 11 percent and Baylor University with 8 percent.
The AGA’s survey was conducted online by Morning Consult between March 3 and March 5, among a national sample of 2,200 adults. The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points and is higher among subgroups.
Long-term growth for sports betting
Another recent report highlights the potential handle the U.S. can expect from March Madness as more sports betting markets launch.
Research and consulting firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming believes that if sports betting were legal in all 50 states, the March Madness tournament could generate $15.9 billion in handle annually.
“March Madness is a singular event on the sports betting calendar — a sprawling 67-game slate played over a compact 19-day period — and serves as one of three tent pole customer acquisition periods for U.S. sports betting operators,” the report said, noting that the other two major events are the NFL regular season and the Super Bowl.
Twenty-six states have legalized sports betting, including markets that have not yet launched. Eilers & Krejcik believes the practice will be legal in 33 states by 2023.