The sports world has been embroiled in one episode of outright lunacy after another in recent weeks. From Russell Westbrook morphing into the Highlander to the ongoing mess that is NFL free agency, there’s so much going on in the world of sports that keeping up has become a workout in and of itself. I haven’t even made a peep about the excitement surrounding the Mayweather-Pacquiao mega fight, the circus of nuttiness that is the Champions League, and the ongoing Cricket World Cup (shout out to the fellas over there in Oz!). You could say that my sports calendar looks like a grocery list by now and yet, I know that I still need to keep enough space for the biggest sports spectacle of the month.
March freakin’ Madness.
See, there’s a reason why March is dominated by college basketball and it boils down to two things: rooting interest and gambling. I didn’t go to any of the schools that are likely going to the tournament so that first part is of little interest to me. The second part, though, is where I’ll be taking a lot of action, boss.
Gambling is such in an ingrained part of March Madness that a lot of people from all walks of life gamble on the tournament without even knowing that they’re doing it. Yes, those office pools and bracket wagers generally involve monetary transactions, making them a form of gambling. But that’s beside the point. What’s important is that March Madness is arguably the most important sporting event for any sports book in a calendar year…and that includes the Super Bowl.
A study conducted by the American Gaming Association revealed that over 40 million Americans will fill out more than 70 million brackets once Selection Sunday – that’s this weekend! – is done. More brackets will be filled over the next few weeks than the 66 million ballots cast during the 2012 US elections.
“Sports betting has played a major role in making March Madness the big-time event it is today,” AGA president and CEO Geoff Freeman said in a statement. “With more people filling out brackets than casting a ballot for President Obama–who makes his NCAA predictions in the Oval Office each year—it’s clear that Americans embrace gaming.”
That part about “Americans embracing gaming” was established a long time ago. But March Madness is when betting goes into overdrive. Sportsbooks are already lining up all sorts of action on March Madness but office pools also rake in a lot of money. The AGA poll, conducted by GfK Custom Research North America, predicts office pool betting will reach $2 billion this year.
All in all, betting on March Madness, whether done legally or illegally, is expected to reach $9 billion this year. That’s more than double the $3.9 billion the AGA estimates was wagered on the Super Bowl.
Obviously, the Super Bowl is just one game whereas March Madness has 136 games (not counting the conference title games that precede it). So the Super Bowl is still the kingpin as far as the most bet-on game in the calendar year.
As we get closer and closer to March Madness, I suggest you enjoy all the other sports happenings going on in the month because when March Madness rounds that corner, we’re all going to be too deep in office pools and brackets to care about anything else.