March Madness is a huge event for sports enthusiasts across the nation, but it’s an even bigger business affair for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The impact March Madness has on the NCAA could reasonably be compared to the impact of big sales events, such as Black Friday, on large department stores. The Big Dance brings in more than 75% of the NCAA’s annual revenue. The college athletics’ governing body earns around a billion dollars from the tournament alone – and revenue projections are going up.
Legal sports betting ignites enthusiasm
March Madness has greatly expanded its fan base, partially as a result of the Supreme Court’s historical decision to strike down the federal ban on sports gambling. On May 14, 2018, the Supreme Court struck down the 1992 federal law prohibiting sports betting, the Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court’s decision left the legality of sports betting and wagering up to the discretion of state governments. As a result, the vast majority of states have moved quickly to legalize sports betting in their jurisdictions.
Since the sports gambling ban was struck down over a year ago, large sporting events have greatly benefitted. This is particularly true with respect to the added revenue generated by legalized sports wagering. As we approach this year’s March Madness, we can expect the sidelines to be littered with sports fans and betting aficionados alike.
Fans go crazy for March Madness
Last year’s March Madness was an extravaganza. During the 2019 championship game, viewership was at an all-time high – a full 23% higher than the prior year. For many, this did not come as too much of a surprise; last year’s March Madness marked the first time in NCAA Tournament history that legal sports betting could be conducted within the United States, outside of Nevada.
Legalized sports betting increased fan viewership ratings, greatly increasing exposure for the sport. The American Gaming Association estimated that 2019’s March Madness attracted the participation of 47 million American gamblers who wagered $8.5 billion during the tournament. The total number of Americans who wagered on the NCAA’s Tournament during March Madness in 2019 equated to nearly 1-in-5 adults. These millions of people completed nearly 149 million brackets.
March Madness brings in the money
All in all, last year’s March Madness was an enormous financial success for both the NCAA and sportsbooks across the nation. The upward trend in game viewership during March Madness has translated to more betting on the brackets. As this trend continues its upward climb, more and more states will opt to legalize sports gambling for tax revenues alone.
Already, the number of states that now support legalized sports gambling has nearly doubled – and this is just in the past year. In addition to the increase in states that have legalized sports betting within their jurisdictions, the majority of other regions across the US have, at the very least, dipped their toe into the legal sports betting waters. In fact, only six states have thus far refrained from introducing a legalized sports betting bill.
Biggest year yet?
After last year’s success, sports fans across the nation are now approaching the upcoming NCAA tournament with renewed enthusiasm. In addition to watching the action, they are preparing to place legal wagers on their favorite teams. With legal sports betting on the rise, several states have taken advantage of the excitement surrounding legal sports betting. To keep up with demand, many jurisdictions have begun to offer more services for online sports gambling on the 68-team postseason tournament. This rising interest, coupled with the near doubling of states with legalized sports betting, has led to reasonable predictions that this year’s March Madness may surpass last year’s $8.5 billion earned, and possibly even break into the double digits.