AP NEWS

Americans to wager $8.5B on March Madness games

March 18, 2019

As the Connecticut Leguislature continues debate over legalized sports betting, comes word that Americans plan to wager $8.5 billion on this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament, with 1-in-5 adults placing a bet.

The survey released Monday by the American Gaming Association, found 47 million Americans will place bets.

Other key findings from the survey, conducted by Morning Consult, include:

$4.6 billion will be wagered on a collective 149 million brackets by more than 40 million people,

nearly 18 million people will wager $3.9 billion at a sportsbook, online, with a bookie or with a friend,

4.1 million will place a bet at a casino sportsbook or using a legal app,

2.4 million will bet illegally with a bookie,

and 5.2 million will bet online, likely at illegal offshore sites.

Meanwhile, the Connecticut General Assembly is trying to figure out a way to tap into this gambling pool of money. Along with Connecticut, sports betting legalization is currently being considered in 23 states across the country.

Last week, Rhode Island this week expanded legalized sports betting, paving the way for gamblers to make wagers online. The move by Rhode Island caught the attention of Connecticut lawmakers, who are struggling over how to implement gambling in their state.

Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said Rhode Island’s vote to authorize app-based sports betting puts a fire under Connecticut’s General Assembly to pass its own legislation so residents don’t drive to Rhode Island to place their bets.

“We’d rather have them stay here in the state of Connecticut, visit the city the of Hartford, New Haven, the tribes and be able to have the online platform [to sports wager] potentially through the Lottery,” Aresimowicz said.

A slew of proposals on sports wagering are before the Connecticut Legislature, and casino interests, the Lottery and off-track-betting companies are all lobbying for a piece of the action.

Rhode Island is the only New England state that now offers legal sports betting. The state’s new bill, passed by the Legislature on Tuesday and expected to be signed by Gov. Gina Raimondo soon, could provide one model to overwhelmed Connecticut politicians.

The bill allows for the creation of an app that people could use to access the sports betting offerings at two Rhode Island casinos where people can currently make bets in person. Anyone wagering on the mobile app would have to be physically present in Rhode Island at the time of their bet.

Rhode Island legalized sports betting in November, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in May striking down a federal law that banned the wagering in most states.

“During this year’s tournament - the first in post-Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act America - sports fans are expected to bet 40 percent more than they did on this year’s Super Bowl,” Bill Miller, AGA’s president and chief executive officer, said in a release.

“Unlike any other sporting event in the country, March Madness attracts millions who fill out brackets, make casual bets with friends or wager at a legal sportsbook, which Americans can now do more than ever before.”

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in May 2018, more than $5.9 billion has been wagered in the now-eight states with legal, regulated sports betting, enabling consumer protections and generating valuable tax revenue for state, local and tribal governments across the country.

“These results indicate there’s still work to do to eradicate the vast illegal sports betting market in this country, and we’re committed to ensuring sound policies are in place to protect consumers, like the 47 million Americans who will bet on March Madness,”said Miller.

Previous reporting by Emile Munson was used in this story.