NCAA March Madness betting to top $10B, group says

The vast majority of the billions of dollars bet on the 2018 NCAA “March Madness” men’s basketball tournament will be wagered illegally, according to estimates from a leading industry group.

The total gambling tally on this year’s event, which features the country’s top 64 college basketball teams and kicks off on Thursday, is expected to exceed $10 billion, the American Gaming Association said Monday. Of that total, 97% will be bet via illegal sportsbooks and other illicit methods, compared to just $300 million through legal sportsbooks in Nevada.

Some 24 million people participated in NCAA pools alone last year, filling out roughly 60 million entries and posting more than $2.6 billion in entry fees, according to the findings of a survey conducted by the Mellman Group. Of 1,501 respondents, 62% said they were unsure of pools were legal.

The group’s findings come amid attempts in several states to challenge the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, or PASPA, a federal act which effectively banned sports betting in all but four states. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering a legal challenge from legislators in New Jersey, with a ruling expected later this year.

Most professional sports leagues, including the NCAA, remain opposed to legalized sports betting. Earlier this year, the NBA became the first league to recommend a potential regulatory framework for a legal marketplace.

The combined haul for betting on all NCAA men’s basketball tournament game surpasses that of the Super Bowl, which is the largest single betting event of the year. Americans wagered an estimated $4.7 billion on Super Bowl LII last February.