This year’s college hoops tournament likely to set wagering records

When it comes to single-game action, nothing tops the action generated by the Super Bowl. But when it comes to a full on event from start to finish, March Madness draws the most wagering of any other event in America. And this year’s version is likely to set some records.

The American Gaming Association expects 47 million Americans to place a bet of some kind on the games this year.

And estimates from Catena Media/Play USA say the total amount of dollars wagered this year could be in the neighborhood of $1.5 billion.

“That’s a lot of legally bet money,” said Eric Ramsey, a senior data analyst for Catena Media/Play USA. “It’s a lot of tax revenue, it’s a lot of revenue for the operators. It’s a huge windfall.”

The overall number of people wagering any money on the games isn’t expected to change much compared to 2019 – but how they wager is.

The number of people filling out a bracket among friends and coworkers is expected to decline — by as much as 8% compared to 2019 according to AGA estiates — in part because fewer of us are in the office anymore.

Filling in that gap is more traditional wagering through mobile apps and sports books, be it on individual games themselves or point totals or picks to go to the Final Four, not to mention the various ways you can bet in the middle of the game or on players.

“The last time we had March Madness in 2019 there were only seven states that had legal sports betting,” noted Ramsey. “Now we have 20 states plus the District of Columbia that have legal sports betting.”

“We basically have a lot more adults with access to legal betting in their home state,” he said. “Something like 86 million adults that have sports betting at home compared to maybe 25 or 27 million in 2019.”

AGA estimates expect nearly 18 million Americans betting online or with a mobile app, a more than 200% increase from what was possible in 2019.

The most popular pick to win it all, per the AGA, is Gonzaga, which is getting 17% of the action. Florida State and Baylor are the next most popular picks. Odds makers put Gonzaga, Illinois, and Baylor as the three most likely winners.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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