It’s the biggest event of the season and one of the biggest on the sports calendar. How much money is actually wagered on March Madness by Americans each year?
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There is no doubt a substantial amount of money wagered on March Madness each year, making it one of the biggest gambling events year in and out.
The sports calendar isn’t too different from an annual calendar. There are busy times (the holidays would be equivalent to NFL/college football season), quieter times (the summer qualifies in both cases), and a lot of months/seasons spent somewhere in between.
But aside from the Super Bowl and NFL Playoffs, we might be coming up on the second-biggest time of the year for wagering – March Madness. It’s 67 games spread across a three-week period – with 52 of those games happening in the first six days.
The event is tailor-made for wagering. So how much do Americans gamble during March Madness?
March Madness Gambling Numbers
Just last year, gaming officials reported that Americans wagered just over $3 billion on March Madness.
The number itself is impressive. The details within that number however might be even more interesting to sports fans and bettors.
For instance, almost 20 percent of American adults wagered on March Madness in one form or another. This is one of those numbers that probably seems impressive to the general public, but low to sports fans.
The exact number? Somewhere between 45 million and 46 million Americans, or more than the population of California, wagered on March Madness in 2022. I mean, who wouldn’t with bonuses flying around like they do today.
A little less than half these people – 20.9 million, to be exact, said they planned to wager on the Tournament outside of simply filling out a bracket with coworkers, family, and friends. For these 20.9 million people, betting on March Madness means using a sports wagering App or going to a brick-and-mortar casino to place a bet on at least one Tournament game.
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How Much Money Will People Wager on March Madness 2023?
What’s interesting is the $3 billion wagered in 2022 represents a decline from the “glory days” of 2019. This was when a reported $8.5 billion in wagers took place during March Madness.
No doubt the pandemic influenced this decline. In 2020, the Tournament was cancelled and took place under pandemic-related concerns in 2021. Last year, the NCAA got things all the way up and running again. 2023 figures to see a full return to the March Madness we all know and love.
Hence, early reports show that the number may double to $6 billion wagered on March Madness on 2023.
How Much Do People Wager on Brackets?
Of course, it’s challenging to identify a dollar amount since most bracket wagering in informal – i.e. money collected by one person in an office setting or a family to run a pool for a group.
However, last year’s report indicated that 76 percent of wagers placed in the U.S. would be outside of bracket pools. This was a significant increase from only 55 percent the previous year. This proves that legalized sports wagering is piquing the interest in March Madness.
More than half the people who indicated they planned to bet on March Madness (55%) answered that gambling was the main reason for their interest in the Tournament.
Is March Madness the Largest Sporting Event for Gambling?
Quite simply, no. March Madness is not the largest sporting event for gambling because of the Super Bowl.
It’s too early for final numbers, but early estimates indicated the total handle in the U.S. for Super Bowl LVII between the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs would be in excess of $15 billion.
Even in its best years, the entire March Madness event can’t reach those lofty levels.
However, March Madness is standing at #2 on the list of standalone sports events. This is even at last year’s figure of $3 billion.
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What other sports are possible contenders?
Projections for World Cup 2022 showed that over 20 million Americans would bet a total of $1.8 billion. This may be the best comparison to March Madness in terms of the fact that there are many games lasting over a number of weeks.
Single events, such as the Kentucky Derby, reported record gambling proceeds in 2022, with $179 million wagered in the parimutuel pool at Churchill Downs alone.
What about boxing? We haven’t seen a high-profile fight like Connor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather since the widespread legalization of sports wagering. That bout however brought in over $100 million in Nevada sportsbooks alone.
The NBA and MLB playoffs have huge followings but can’t approach March Madness in terms of overall handle. These sports see greater fluctuations from game to game as opposed to a consistent figure throughout the event.
So while the Super Bowl remains king, it’s fair to say that March Madness is #2 in terms of the money wagered on a sporting event in the U.S.