Meet the Press, the longest-running television series in the United States, is projecting legal sports wagers on March Madness this year will, for the first time, exceed revenue from illegal bets.
March Madness is the annual college basketball tournament which opens its first full day of action later on Thursday (March 16) in arenas across the United States.
Most of the betting occurs on college men’s games, but the college women’s version of March Madness also is generating more bets every year.
Chuck Todd, the host of Meet the Press, said on the program’s March 12 broadcast that legal bets will total about $6bn compared with $4bn in illegal wagers this year.
Betting projections by the American Gaming Association (AGA) do not include breakdowns of legal versus illegal wagers, but one of the primary objectives of the AGA is to abolish the unlawful gambling market.
Regulators and sports-betting operators in states which have legalized gambling share the AGA’s goal.
“Back in the early 2000s, gaming reports had illegal wagers accounting for 98.5 percent and Nevada for only 1.5 percent of the wagers. Times have changed,” said Jay Kornegay, executive vice president of Superbook Sports Operations at the Westgate Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.
Kornegay said he is expecting another huge year for betting revenue from March Madness, which ranks with the Super Bowl as the two biggest sports wagering events in the United States.
The legal sports wagering market has exploded less than five years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Professional and Amateur Sport Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 violated states’ rights and the U.S. Constitution.
Before the Supreme Court’s ruling, Nevada had a virtual monopoly on sports betting in the United States.
Today, sports betting has been legalized in 35 other states and the District of Columbia. Revenue from legal sports betting reached $7.56bn in 2022 on handle of more than $93bn, according to data compiled by VIXIO GamblingCompliance.
The legal gambling industry’s hope is that the trend in sports betting will carry over to internet casinos where much more money could be made.
The professional sports leagues, which fought to preserve PASPA in the Supreme Court, have since formed a variety of betting partnerships with their former adversaries in the sports-betting industry.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which oversees March Madness, arguably has been the most aggressive opponent of legal sports betting but agreed last year to allow the collection and distribution of sports-betting data.
Nevertheless, the NCAA remains the league that is most wary of the impact of legal sports betting.
“Most recently, we partnered with EPIC Risk Management to provide a student-athlete protection program for member schools,” said Saquandra Heath, the NCAA’s associate director of communications and external engagement.
“Additionally, as part of our ongoing integrity efforts, the national office is working with an industry-leading service provider that tracks, flags and analyses data and activity to protect the integrity of college sports,” Heath said.
“This includes pregame and in-game monitoring of regular and postseason competition.”