We are blessed to have some great traditions in America – fireworks on the 4th of July, James Bond movie marathons on random holidays, and wagering small amounts of money on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament.
At some point in your life, odds are you’ve filled out a tournament bracket. Even if you’re not a sports fan or have zero knowledge of college basketball, it’s something everybody can get involved in. It’s a communal experience. You can put in your $5 or $10 in an office or friends or family pool and try to test your basketball knowledge. Or you can pick teams based on colors, mascots, potential vacation locales, or anything in between.
With so many people involved in pools and wagers, there are some pretty astounding numbers for just how many dollars and brackets are making the rounds during this time of year.
What are those numbers?
Via David Purdum at ESPN.com, try 70 million brackets and $10.4 billion dollars:
Americans are expected to complete 70 million NCAA tournament brackets this year, risking on average $29 per bracket and contributing to the $10.4 billion that will be bet overall on March Madness, according to estimates released Monday by the American Gaming Association.
The $10.4 billion expected to be bet on the tournament includes popular office pools and is up 13 percent from last year’s tournament, the AGA says. Only a small fraction of the money bet on the tournament, around 3 percent, is believed to be wagered legally in the United States. The bulk of the remaining $10.1 billion is placed with offshore sportsbooks and local bookmakers, according to the AGA, which represents the U.S. casino industry.
Just how much is $10 billion dollars? It’s not only enough money to buy several professional sports franchises, it also just so happens to roughly equal the value of the NCAA Tournament media rights deal that the NCAA has signed with Turner Sports and CBS to broadcast the event signed in 2011. That $10.8 billion dollar 14 year agreement has already been renewed earlier this year. Oh and by the way almost none of it goes to student-athletes. If only they had a couple extra billion dollars at their disposal.
To help put this number in further perspective, at least from a sports betting standpoint, it also far surpasses what was bet on the Super Bowl at the Vegas sports books. According to ESPN, March Madness betting will more than double what was bet on Super Bowl LI between the Patriots and Falcons.
The AGA, which has multiple Las Vegas sports betting companies as members, estimates that $295 million will be bet on the NCAA tournament at Nevada’s sportsbooks this year. By comparison, a record $138.4 million was bet on Super Bowl LI in Nevada. According to multiple Las Vegas sportsbook directors, the most common size of a bet on the NCAA tournament ranges from $20 to $50.
Part of the whole fun of March Madness is following your office pool picks (or your bets as the case may be) and seeing how those teams progress throughout March. You get to be disappointed by a whole new set of teams that you usually don’t root for throughout the year! There’s nothing quite like getting angry at some random school that blows your chance at a nice steak dinner. Still looking at you for that collapse last year, Northern Iowa…