Watch CBS News

Betting on March Madness tournament to top $3 billion, gambling group predicts

MoneyWatch: Betting on March Madness
MoneyWatch: Betting on March Madness 03:35

Americans will wager an estimated $3.1 billion on this year's March Madness college basketball championship tournament, the gambling industry's national trade group predicts.

That figure includes legal bets as well as those placed with illegal bookies or offshore websites, the American Gaming Association (AGA) said in a new report. An estimated 45 million Americans — 17% of U.S. adults — plan to place at least one bet on the NCAA tournament.

"There's no doubt this year will generate the highest legal handle in March Madness history," said Bill Miller, the association's president and CEO, referring to the total amount wagered on the tournament.

68 college basketball teams set for battle in March Madness 06:38

Bettors name Gonzaga (17%) as their favorite to win the tournament, followed by Duke (12%), and Kentucky (11%)

The college championship tournament is one of sports betting's biggest events, but it still trails the level of betting seen in football's Super Bowl. While fewer Americans were expected to place bets on last month's Super Bowl won by the Los Angeles Rams (31 million), the amount expected to be wagered on the game was $7.6 billion, more than twice the amount forecast for the college basketball tournament, according to the association.

Nearly 21 million Americans say they plan to make bets that do not involve filling out brackets that predict the winner of each game up to and including the eventual champion, which has always been a popular method of betting on the tournament. But 36.5 million will bet on a bracket in a pool or similar contest; there is some overlap among the two groups

The report says more than three-quarters of the total amount bet on the tournament will not involve brackets, an increase of 55% from last year. Polling group Morning Consult conducted the online survey of 2,210 adults on behalf of the AGA.  

MoneyWatch: Online betting gains popularity with kids 04:16

That is due in large part to the increasing number of states offering legal sports betting. Currently, 30 states plus Washington, D.C., offer it, and there are 29 million more American adults who live in states that have adopted legal sports betting since last year's March Madness tournament.

Eilers & Krejcik Gaming forecasts that legal sports betting, which generated $1.5 billion in revenue in 2020, will reach nearly $6 billion by 2023. States began legalizing online sports betting three years ago after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2018 struck down a federal law barring gambling on football, basketball, baseball and other sports. As of February, 18 states have legalized online sports betting.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.