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About $10B Will Be Bet On March Madness Illegally, Casino Group Says

Only About $300M Expected To Be Wagered Through Nevada


One of the most popular weeks-long sports betting events in America kicks off this month, just as the U.S. Supreme Court readies itself to rule on a federal law pertaining to the activity.

According to the American Gaming Association, Americans will wager more than $10 billion on the upcoming NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Of that $10 billion, only about $300 million will be wagered legally through Nevada sports books. The amount bet nationwide is expected to be about the same as last year.

A 1992 federal law banned traditional sports betting outside of the Silver State, and that’s precisely what the casino industry wants to have struck down.

“Our current sports betting laws are so out of touch with reality that we’re turning tens of millions of Americans into criminals for the simple act of enjoying college basketball,” said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association.

The AGA said that 10 percent of American adults, or nearly 24 million people, reported spending nearly $3 billion collectively in the past year on college basketball pools alone. Such betting pools are technically illicit, the group said.

“The U.S. Supreme Court will make a decision on New Jersey’s challenge to PASPA’s overreach in the coming months, potentially enabling an expansion of legalized sports betting,” the AGA said. “Meanwhile, 48 pieces of sports betting legislation are active in 18 states, as legislatures across the country prepare to take advantage of this opportunity.”

Nevada’s sports books won a record $248.7 million from gamblers last year. The figure smashed the previous record of $231.7 million set in 2015. The revenue was 13.5 percent more than what was generated in 2016 and reflected a win percentage of 5.1 percent. Bettors there wagered a record $4.8 billion last year. March 2017 saw $439.5 million bet on basketball, on the NCAA and the NBA. That figure was an all-time high for the state in terms of the basketball handle.

For comparison, the 2018 NFL Super Bowl generated $158.5 million in wagers for Nevada’s sports betting industry. That was also a new record.