March Madness will pack the basketball court with action the next three weeks, with millions of fans nationwide tuning in to watch 68 college basketball teams compete in seven rounds to win the National Championship.
"A college basketball holiday because it's just so exciting, and these games are like no other during the time of the year," said Johnny Avello, director of race and sportsbooks operations at DraftKings.
Avello says March Madness is the biggest sports betting event of the year. He says it beats out the Super Bowl because it's a much longer event.
"Every year this gets bigger for us," Avello said.
This year, 68 million Americans plan to wager $15.5 billion on the NCAA men's basketball tournament, according to a new survey by the American Gaming Association. It also says:
- 31 million Americans plan to place a traditional sports wager online, at a retail sportsbook or with a bookie
- 21.5 million plan to bet casually with friends
- 56.3 million plan to participate in a bracket contest
Avello says people can bet as little as a couple of dollars and all the way up to six figures.
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Three-fourths of online bettors say this March Madness will mark their first online bet.
"When you look at where March Madness was just five years ago, there was only one state that would have allowed legal bets," said Casey Clark, senior VP of the American Gaming Association. "Today, where sports betting is legal in 36 states plus D.C., it's extraordinary growth over a short period of time."
In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of sports betting. Since then, it's generated more than $3 billion in state and federal taxes nationwide, according to the AGA. States that offer online betting appear to bank more money.
"You can be making a bet when you're getting a haircut or you're getting a massage, so it makes it easy, and the sportsbook is right in your pocket," Avello said.
Charlie Baker, the former governor of Massachusetts and now the president of NCAA, says he worries about the pressure the millions of dollars of bets puts on young players.
"I worry a lot about what the impact is going to be on the incoming through various channels that student athletes are going to have to deal with," Baker said.
The nonstop basketball bonanza is expected to slow down work productivity. WalletHub calculated $16.3 billion in corporate losses and found that 37% of Americans are willing to call out sick or skip work to catch a game.
"Anybody who is choosing to put a little money on March Madness this year should have a game plan to bet responsibly," Clark said. "That includes setting budgets, setting limits, playing socially with your friends and, more importantly, only playing with legal regulated operators."
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