U.S. Markets closed
  • S&P 500

    -5.36 (-0.13%)
  • Dow 30

    -90.57 (-0.28%)
  • Nasdaq

    +8.69 (+0.07%)
  • Russell 2000

    -14.31 (-0.80%)
  • Crude Oil

    +0.74 (+1.06%)
  • Gold

    +10.70 (+0.55%)
  • Silver

    +0.39 (+1.72%)

    +0.0022 (+0.2051%)
  • 10-Yr Bond

    -0.0500 (-1.39%)
  • Vix

    -0.28 (-1.31%)

    +0.0034 (+0.2806%)

    +0.1200 (+0.0906%)

    -795.98 (-2.83%)
  • CMC Crypto 200

    -0.36 (-0.06%)
  • FTSE 100

    +30.62 (+0.41%)
  • Nikkei 225

    +520.94 (+1.93%)

March Madness: How legal sports betting will make this year a bit different

More Americans can place a legal wager on this year’s March Madness tournament than ever before as the American Gaming Association reported 29 more million Americans have entered the legal wagering space since last year’s tournament.

“I think it's pretty remarkable how much Americans are embracing the legal regulated sports betting markets,” AGA Senior Vice President for Strategic Communications Casey Clark told Yahoo Finance. “With almost 30 million more American adults having access this year than last year's tournament, we're just going to continue to see those numbers going up.”

As of March 7, sports betting is legal in 31 territories with 11 more states awaiting on legislation decisions this year. The increased availability hasn’t led to larger betting handle predictions from the AGA, though.

According to a survey conducted by AGA/Morning Consult, an estimated total of 45 million Americans will wager a total of $3.1 billion on this year’s big dance. That’s a drop from last year’s projected 47 million bettors and 2019’s predicted handle of $8.5 billion.

Clark attributed last year’s jump in projected bettors to increased excitement after the canceled 2020 tournament and added that the 2022 report falls in line with trends seen prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, he added, this year will likely be "the biggest March Madness ever for legal sports betting. It's not an indication that people aren't going to bet on March Madness. I think it's just a matter of a year without it led to pretty extraordinary results last year.”

Clark’s proclamation for record-setting numbers this year falls in line with sports gambling results from last month's Super Bowl.

Mar 27, 2021; Indianapolis; The March Madness logo before a game between the Syracuse Orange and the Houston Cougars in the Sweet Sixteen (Photo: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)
Mar 27, 2021; Indianapolis; The March Madness logo before a game between Syracuse Orange and Houston Cougars in the Sweet Sixteen (Photo: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports).

With the influx of new markets in the gambling space, including the country’s fourth-largest state by population in New York, betting handles soared during the 2022 Super Bowl. In New York alone, FanDuel ($PDYPY), Caesars Sportsbook ($CZR), and DraftKings ($DKNG) all drew in betting handles over $100 million during Super Bowl week.

The rise of live betting

Many fans have been lured in by flashy promotions that promised boosted returns for basic bets like picking the Super Bowl winner.

A month later, those same promotions have returned. DraftKings has already adjusted Gonzaga University’s line to +100 — meaning that a bettor can get underdog style odds for betting on the tournament’s top seed to beat a No. 16 seed — while FanDuel is offering a risk-free NCAA bet (meaning that if the bettor loses, they still get something in return).

These enticing deals could be part of why the AGA has seen survey respondents move away from brackets. Americans plan to place 76% of their wagers outside of brackets, up from 55% last year, according to AGA.

While the AGA doesn’t have concrete data on exactly why Americans might be moving away from brackets, Clark suggested bettors might be searching for more immediate entertainment. Rather than wait a month to see if their bracket will come out on top, they can bet on the winner of every game in real time.

The bets can narrow down to be even more exact, too. This concept, known as microbetting, allows gamblers to bet on who will make the next shot or how many points a given player could score in a half. DraftKings CEO Jason Robins has been bullish on the concept as a way to keep sports consumers constantly engaged with the game.

Jake Sindberg of Wisconsin makes bets during a viewing party for the NCAA Men's College Basketball Tournament on March 15, 2018 in Las Vegas.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Jake Sindberg of Wisconsin makes bets during a viewing party for the NCAA Men's College Basketball Tournament on March 15, 2018 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

“We've seen it growing every year for the last few years as more live bets are put on the platform, as more kind of organic adoption happens.” Robins recently said on Yahoo Finance Live. “I think a lot of people, when they first start betting, don't even realize you can live bet. And once they discover it, they find it's a fun way to enjoy things during the game. And sometimes your bet on the spread or your money line bet by the time you get to the third or fourth quarter, it's not looking good, so you can come and make a live bet, and that'll keep your attention and engagement in the game and make that last quarter or two more fun.”

While brackets are still a fun way to earn bragging rights, live betting provides the upper hand for legal gambling houses. Though it might not kill the March Madness bracket, it will be another reason for the nearly 29 million new Americans in the sports gambling market this March to place a legal sports bet.

“The interest in big event betting like the Super Bowl or March Madness continues to be very high and the more Americans are interested as those legal options closer to home continue to grow,” Clark said. “We’re excited about what that looks like.”

Josh is a producer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @_JoshSchafer.

Read the latest financial and business news from Yahoo Finance

Follow Yahoo Finance on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Flipboard, and LinkedIn