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Roughly one in four Americans will place some kind of bet on this year’s Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, according to the American Gaming Association.

About 68m American adults will wager on March Madness this year, per the AGA. That is projected to create $15.5bn in handle across all verticles.

Of those surveyed, 31m said they plan to place a traditional sports bet online, at a retail book or with a bookie. Roughly 21.5m will bet casually with friends, while 56.3m will participate in a bracket contest.

The survey findings included respondents who planned to bet with two or more of the aforementioned channels.

“March Madness is one of the best traditions in American sports—and America’s most wagered-on competition,” said AGA President and CEO Bill Miller in a statement. “Critically, the expansion of regulated sports betting over the past five years has brought safeguards to more than half of American adults who can now bet legally in their home market.”

March Madness betting grows

The survey found that three-fourths of online bettors will be placing their first March Madness bets this year. Polling firm Morning Consult conducted the survey online among a national sample of 2,200 adults.

In addition to the growth of legal betting markets, the overall increase in March Madness betting has been in part fueled by the “resurgence” of bracket contests, per the AGA. The popular bracket competition – as well as the tournament itself – was not conducted in 2020, due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The following year’s tournament was conducted entirely in Indiana, denying fans across the country in-person access to early-round games that have been historically full of upsets.

This year’s tournament features regional competitions in Las Vegas for the first time. The NCAA had previously prohibited games in Nevada because it offered legal sports betting.

Roughly 18m more Americans will bet on at least one of the 67 March Madness games than will have wagered on the Super Bowl. However, the AGA projects that all tournament games combined will generate $500m less in handle than recorded during this year’s Super Bowl.

March Madness and the Super Bowl are perennially the two most-wagered upon sporting events in the US. This year’s Super Bowl was played in Arizona, the first state with legal sports betting to host the “Big Game,” and next year’s game will be played in Las Vegas.

More betting options

The projected increase in March Madness betting comes as more states than ever offer legal online sports betting.

Since last year’s tournament, Massachusetts, Ohio and Kansas, home to the reigning national champions, have started taking sports bets. All three states will allow bets on in-state teams in the tournament.

By next year’s tournament, both Maine (online and retail sportsbooks) and Nebraska (retail only) are also expected to accept legal bets. Currently 33 states, Washington DC and Puerto Rico offer at least one retail and/or online sportsbook.

Kentucky, Alabama, Texas, Minnesota, Missouri and North Carolina are among the states seriously considering sports betting legislation this year. If approved by their respective state legislatures, any or all of these states could be taking bets by the 2024 tournament.

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