Is it legal to bet on March Madness? NCAA Tournament College Basketball sports gambling

Mar 8, 2024

March Madness is one of the most popular and bet-on sporting events every year. Sixty-eight teams will have a place in March Madness, and that means there are plenty of games to bet on until the Championship. However, is it legal to bet on March Madness? Let’s dive into the details of gambling on the biggest college basketball tournament. 

March Madness and Sports Betting

NCAA viewpoint and rules

The sports gambling industry and the NCAA have an interesting relationship when it comes to March Madness. Sportsbooks like DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars and more can’t wait for March because it’s a highly lucrative month with hundreds of college basketball games. In 2023, over 68 million Americans wagered roughly $15.5 billion on March Madness, according to the American Gaming Association. Keep in mind, Americans wagered $16 billion on the Super Bowl in 2023. Sportsbooks see an increase in the number of new users, which leads to more money being wagered, and in turn generally leads to more profits for the sportsbook.

However, since March Madness involves college athletes, there are many important rules set by the NCAA to reduce (ideally eliminate) the chances of games’ integrity being compromised. Players, coaches, trainers and staff are prohibited from betting and from providing useful information for sports betting purposes. 

Popularity of betting on March Madness

The three most bet-on events in the U.S. each year are the Super Bowl, March Madness and the Kentucky Derby. (Plus, the FIFA World Cup when it occurs every four years.) Over a quarter of American adults placed a bet on March Madness in 2023, and that number is only expected to rise in 2024 (Front Office Sports). There are a few reasons why the tournament is so heavily bet: firstly, there are nearly 70 teams that will play at least one game in March Madness. That means fans of 68 teams will be able to gamble on their team’s game (if in a legalized state). 

March Madness is also happening at a great time in the sports calendar because only the NBA and NHL are in-season, and the MLB doesn’t start until the end of the month. That means there will be plenty of eyes watching the games. Secondly, more and more states legalize sports gambling each year. Around three-quarters of the country has legalized sports gambling in some fashion, and the legalization of online sports betting has seen the most rapid growth of all. States have given millions of residents the ability to gamble on March Madness using their fingertips from the comforts of their couch. 

In the year after the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was struck down in 2018, it was reported that $8.5 billion was wagered on March Madness (Statista). Just four years later, that number nearly doubled. With the increase in sports gambling legalization across the country, more Americans are betting on March Madness than ever.

Who is allowed to bet on March Madness in the United States? 

Age Requirements

In general, you have to be at least 21 years old to legally gamble in the United States. However, the rules depend on which state you are located in. Some states allow users to be 18 to gamble, but it’s not common. States that permit 18-year-olds to legally gamble include Montana, Rhode Island and Wyoming. 

Since the rules and regulations vary depending on the state, you must abide by the rules of the state you are currently in. That means an 18-year-old from Montana cannot legally bet while visiting Massachusetts, for example. 

Location Requirements

There are 38 states, plus Washington D.C., that have legalized sports gambling in some form (Forbes). Of those states, only 29 have legalized online sports betting. Here is a list of the 28 states, and D.C., that have legalized online gambling:

Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington D.C., West Virginia, and Wyoming.

NOTE: North Carolina will launch legalized online sports betting on Monday, March 11. 

Here are the nine states that have legalized only in-person retail sports betting:

Delaware, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin. 

That leaves 12 states that have not legalized sports betting in any form, and they include:

California, Texas, Idaho, Utah, Minnesota, Missouri, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Alaska and Hawaii.

Can college students bet on sports?

Yes and no. If the college student is not on a sports team, in a state that has legalized sports gambling and is at least the minimum age the state requires to gamble (which is usually 21), then yes, the student can bet on sports. However, if the student lives in a state that does not permit legalized sports gambling or is not the minimum age to sign up at a sportsbook, then no, the student cannot bet on sports. 

As for college-student athletes, it’s a lot more clear cut: “NCAA rules ban participation in sports betting activities and prohibit providing information to individuals involved in or associated with any type of sports betting activities concerning intercollegiate, amateur or professional athletics competition” (NCAA). So no, college student-athletes are not allowed to bet on sports, including March Madness.

Dangers of Betting on March Madness College Basketball 

Gambling on the March Madness tournament can be dangerous. First of all, there are 67 total games played, including the First Four round. That many games in just a few weeks provides essentially a non-stop barrage of opportunities to bet, which can lead to rapidly developing addictive gambling behaviors. Once the tournament begins, there are usually several games per day, which some unfortunately see as opportunities to “chase” their losses.

If you lose your first bet of the day, it can be tempting to gamble on the next game to try to earn back the amount lost. However, this is the easiest way to lose more money than expected and potentially become addicted to trying to make your money back. Chasing losses, betting on more games than you normally would, and gambling daily are all potential paths to problem gambling behaviors and possibly developing an addiction.

Learn Responsible Gaming before betting on March Madness

With March Madness around the corner, it’s important to learn and remember how to gamble responsibly. Here are just a few ways to avoid growing a sports gambling addiction:

  • Set limits on the amount that you gamble daily/weekly/monthly

  • Never chase your losses

  • Avoid gambling when under the influence of drugs or alcohol

By following these tips, you put yourself in a more responsible state to gamble. Don’t get sucked into betting on more games than you should by the fact that there are more games being played each day. 

Gambling Addiction Help and Treatment

Fortunately, there is help available if you believe that you, a friend, or a family member may be struggling with gambling addiction. Birches Health offers reliable and effective treatment options, with private and convenient online care. There is a 24/7 care team available, and the trained specialists with years of experience are ready to help any individual who reaches out. 

Sources:

2023 March Madness Wagering Estimates - American Gaming Association

68M Bettors Expected to Wager $15.5B in Bets for March Madness

Total amount bet on March Madness US 2023 | Statista

States Where Sports Betting Is Legal

Sports Betting - NCAA.org

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