Legal March Madness betting across the United States certainly will become one of the biggest wagering events on the sports calendar.
Just how big will it be? That is the question the Legal Sports Report team attempts to answer today.
The basics of March Madness betting
Here is some of the information we used for context:
- The American Gaming Association (AGA) estimates that 4.1 million Americans will engage in legal sports betting during March Madness.
- Last year, March Madness betting in Nevada accounted for $300 million in handle.
- Mobile sports betting accounted for 80 percent of wagers last month in New Jersey. Only the Garden State and Nevada feature mobile and online wagering, though.
We will start with an estimate of roughly $400 million calculated by analysts from LSR and The Lines. First up, the esteemed Dustin Gouker …
Dustin Gouker: The Realist
We’ve learned in the early days of legal sports betting outside of Nevada that everything doesn’t follow the Nevada blueprint. That’s taken a lot of forms, including regulations, mobile betting, and how people bet.
What we know about Nevada is that people really, really like to bet on big events, including the Super Bowl and March Madness.
We know March sees a huge uptick in sports wagering in Nevada. While we don’t have exact numbers on how much is bet on the games, the AGA estimates about $300 million in handle.
So what’s that mean for New Jersey and the rest of the states with legal March Madness betting? Well, people go to Nevada specifically to watch and bet on the Super Bowl and March Madness, and it’s a fairly mature market.
For the Super Bowl, we saw more than $140 million bet in Nevada, and only about of a quarter of that was bet in NJ. If that trend holds, we’d expect about $75 million in March Madness betting in New Jersey.
Of course, the dynamic could be different in New Jersey. Everything is constantly new as legal sports betting rolls out, so I’m prepared to be surprised yet again by what happens outside Nevada as we learn more about the tastes of the US betting market.
Eric Ramsey: The Optimist
Being overly optimistic about NJ sports betting has bitten us once or twice before. And I’m fully prepared to fall into the trap again.
If New Jersey was Nevada and all things were equal, we’d project $70 million or so in March Madness betting. But NJ is not NV.
Given the proliferation of mobile betting apps (and remote registration), I’m expecting NJ handle to beat the math. Nine figures might be a stretch, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see $85 million in total wagers — plus $300 million again in Nevada.
The fact that some games will be off the board in NJ and several other states will drop the ceiling, though. It’s also not clear if West Virginia sports betting will be available statewide, and there is no such thing as PA online sports betting yet.
Still, I wouldn’t sleep on those non-NJ markets. College sports are a big draw in Mississippi, for example, and the Rhode Island sportsbooks are close enough to the border to tempt Boston-area bettors. Expect the rest of states to combine for another $35 million with ease.
Call it $420 million in combined March Madness betting handle in the US.
Adam Candee: The Nevadan
Roughly a year ago, I spoke with Derek Stevens, who owns The D in downtown Las Vegas and bets big on sports. I asked him how the Super Bowl compares to March Madness:
“March Madness is the best weekend of the year in Las Vegas. It used to be the Super Bowl, but clearly now it’s March Madness.”
That’s why I expect Nevada to surpass $300 million in March Madness betting this year. Las Vegas is the premier destination in the country for the first four days of the tournament. Sportsbooks even sell tickets for seating throughout the opening weekend!
Book me for $350 million in Nevada. Yet I’m not as bullish on New Jersey.
NJ sports betting provided a cautionary tale during the Super Bowl. The Garden State might not prove as event-driven as other markets.
The long days of Thursday through Sunday demand all-day access to betting to maximize handle, both for in-play betting and players chasing late games. New Jersey’s mobile strength could help there, but I’m wary of overestimating.
I’ll take the under on Dustin’s $75 million; in fact, put me down for $50 million in March Madness betting.
Eric’s optimism for non-mobile markets resonates with me as well. I could see Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and in particular Mississippi coming in strong. About $30 million does not feel crazy, so I total up to $430.
Maybe I’m the optimist …