Sports’ betting is all set for one of its biggest weeks of the year as events get underway on both sides of the Atlantic. Anticipation ahead of this year’s Cheltenham Festival and NCAA Tournament have been building for months before the straw broke the camel’s back with last night’s bracket release. For those in the U.K. thinking WTF is this guy on about just think the FA Cup Draw times-10 and you’ve got an idea.
British and Irish bettors are expected to fork out something like £600 million during the four-day festival in the West of England whereas the first four days of the NCAA tournament are second only to the Super Bowl in terms of betting volume in the U.S. Todd Fuhrman, senior race and sports analyst for Caesars Entertainment, explained to the Las Vegas Sun the event is “like the Super Bowl times four” and they’ll be hoping to attract more “squares” than “sharps” over the course of the 64-team tournament.
Why the first four days though? Cheltenham manages to keep it up for the entire festival and you’d have thought the national title game would match up to the Super Bowl. Joe Salerno, director of sports book for Leroy’s Sportsbook, explained: “It’s the excitement of 64 teams going down to 16 teams in just four days. The sheer magnitude and convergence is what makes this week one of the biggest events in sports.”
The betting firms may sound like they’re excited but this could be a long way from the truth. European-facing books have reported that Cheltenham, when it gets underway tomorrow, could be the nuclear apocalypse and World War III banded together. March Madness won’t have the same cataclysmic effect on Vegas books. That’s unless one college ride’s a #1 seed all the way to the title.
“Until they win it or are upset, Kentucky is going to be the No. 1 team,” Fuhrman said.
There’s evidence those betting on the tournament will be spending more than in the past too. CouponCabin.com surveyed 2,307 U.S. adult viewers and found 31 percent saying they will bet higher stakes than in previous years. 26 percent of those asked said they’ll be betting on the tournament and that will be of comfort to Vegas books.
Crowds of bettors might be what originally gave the tournament its “March Madness” moniker and the fever amongst sports fans in Vegas will only multiply as the tournament gets underway. Differing emotions for bookies over the pond mean that by the end of Friday’s Gold Cup day many will know how 2012’s panned out.