The Super Bowl may remain the gold standard for legalized sports betting in America. But March Madness should not be forgotten.
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is the second-biggest event for wagering. The action tips off with the First Four on Tuesday. And with it, the first of likely hundreds of millions of dollars should begin coming into regulated sportsbooks across the country.
Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for TheLines, projected that upward of $400 million in legal wagers should be placed at retail and online sportsbooks in the US. That includes some $300 million in Nevada and $75 million in New Jersey.
Pennsylvania, meanwhile, is part of a group of six states that collectively, “should generate around $25 million in NCAA Tournament bets,” according to the release.
Of course, NV and NJ lead crowd
The first year of legalized March Madness betting outside of Nevada has already begun. Obviously, TheLines analysts expect the granddaddy of them all, Nevada, to account for the lion’s share of tourney wagering.
Nevada took in a record $459 million in bets during March 2018, with March Madness accounting for about $300 million. Per TheLines, using this past Super Bowl as a guide, New Jersey could attract 25 percent of Nevada’s tourney handle. Gouker explained:
“In Nevada, the NCAA Tournament trails only the Super Bowl in popularity for sports bettors and actually generates more bets because of the number of games. New Jersey, which is the second-largest legal sports betting market, is not as event-driven as the Silver State. But the overall handle should propel the state into a record month for handle.”
“I am particularly bullish on New Jersey, where the interest in NBA and college basketball betting has been high. Basketball has drawn a higher share of wagering in New Jersey than it has in Nevada this season, and that will likely translate well to the NCAA Tournament.”
PA sports betting outlook remains low
As noted, PA sports betting is expected to be part of a crowd that generates a third of New Jersey’s tournament handle.
Based on to-date handle in the state, Gouker estimated that legal Pennsylvania sportsbooks will accept between $7 million and $10 million in March Madness wagers.
In February, albeit a short month, PA sports betting handle dropped despite featuring the Super Bowl. Still, the $31.5 million wagered last month stands as the second-most in the industry’s three-and-a-half month history.
For those operations that recently opened, such as FanDuel Sportsbook at Valley Forge Casino Resort, March Madness has become their Super Bowl.
“The goal the whole time was to be open for March Madness,” Jeff Lowich, senior director of retail for FanDuel Sportsbook, told The Philadelphia Inquirer earlier this month. “It’s hard to understand it until you’ve either been through it or seen it. Once you go through that, you don’t want to sit at home and watch a fight or a game on your couch. Whether you’re with friends or even strangers, when you’re in a sportsbook, it’s just fun.”
Valley Forge General Manager Dave Zerfing echoed that sentiment, one surely shared by all eight PA sportsbooks.
“If you haven’t been in a sportsbook for March Madness, there is nothing more exciting than that first weekend with all those games going on and everybody having action on everything.”
PA still without online sports betting
While Pennsylvania could eventually become a legalized wagering power in America, the state’s lack of PA online sports betting is something of an issue in the interim.
Regulated online wagering in the state remains months away, with launch potentially not green-lit until the summer. Already, eight PA sportsbooks have plans to go mobile.
If online was operational, certainly PA’s projections would be higher. Consider the industry of nearby New Jersey’s, where 80 percent of monthly handle comes via online sportsbooks.
Futures of March Madness
Of the 68 teams in the NCAA tournament, eight hail from states that offer legal sports betting. Two (Villanova and Temple) reside in Philadelphia.
New Jersey, which sent Fairleigh Dickinson and Seton Hall to the tourney, does not allow bettors to wager on teams from its state. Pennsylvania, however, does.
Along those lines, using information from its online betslip builder, Parx Sportsbook lists No. 6 Villanova at +3,000 to win the national title for the second straight year and third time in four seasons. No. 11 Temple, meanwhile, holds a +50,000 line at Parx and at Rivers, which also boasts an online betslip builder.
At Rivers, Villanova sits at +3,300 to win it all. FanDuel Sportsbook ins New Jersey lists Villanova at +3,500 and Temple at +25,000.
Meanwhile, plenty of NJ basketball fans are pinning their March Madness hopes on the Big East champions. A DraftKings Sportsbook spokesperson revealed six percent of the tickets so far are on Villanova, as well as four percent of the money.
Unsurprisingly, the top seeds in each region sit as the favorites.
|Parx Sportsbook||Rivers Sportsbook||FanDuel Sportsbook|
|No. 1 Duke +200||No. 1 Duke +225||No. 1 Duke +220|
|No. 1 Gonzaga +550||No. 1 Gonzaga +575||No. 1 Gonzaga +600|
|No. 1 Virginia +650||No. 1 Virginia +700||No. 1 Virginia +700|
|No. 1 North Carolina +700||No. 1 North Carolina +750||No. 1 North Carolina +950|