How big is betting on College Basketball? Is it Legal?

Feb 21, 2024

Betting on basketball is extremely popular, regardless of whether it is at the professional or college level. However, unlike the NBA, betting on college basketball peaks in March, which is just about a week away. That’s because March Madness is one of the most popular sports tournaments in the calendar year. In the last few years, it’s also become one of the most bet-on events too. Here’s a brief history of gambling on college basketball and the popularity of March Madness.

History of sports betting and college basketball

College basketball has always been a difficult topic when discussing gambling rules. Before the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was struck down in 2018, it was legal to bet on college basketball in Nevada only. Following the Act’s repeal, states began to legalize sports betting, and soon enough, thousands of people were gambling on college sports from their phones. However, there are plenty of rules regarding prop bets, in-state teams and more that make up the overall picture. 

March Madness betting and brackets 

Sports betting popularity 

March Madness brackets and pools have been run for decades, but betting on March Madness at online sportsbooks is a new option. However, the actual popularity of betting on March Madness surprised a lot of people. In 2019, over $8 billion was wagered on March Madness. Fast forward to March Madness in 2022, and over 17% of American adults, or roughly 45 million people, were estimated to wager on the tournament (Statistica).

In the 12 months between March Madness in 2022 and 2023, several states around the country legalized sports betting and allowed online sportsbooks to operate. This opened the door for millions of Americans to gamble on the event, and that’s exactly what happened. In 2023, over 25% of American adults, or approximately 68 million people, were estimated to wager over $15 billion on March Madness (per the AGA). It’s clear that with increased legalization, betting on college basketball and March Madness continues to grow each year.

March Madness brackets and pools

One of the most popular activities that has become a core part of the March Madness experience for millions in the U.S. is creating a bracket of predictions. Creating a bracket doesn’t necessarily require previous college basketball knowledge since luck is also a factor. However, regardless of your college basketball knowledge, it’s nearly impossible to predict the perfect bracket.

It’s estimated that without any college basketball knowledge, a person has a 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 chance of a perfect bracket. But if the person knows a little about basketball, they have a 1 in 120.2 billion chance (NCAA). Another reason why creating a bracket is popular is because it sometimes doesn’t require cost to participate. Websites like ESPN and others allow people to create a bracket without any financial deposit. 

Where is it legal to bet on college basketball?

Around three-quarters of states in the country have legalized sports gambling in some form. Every state that has legalized online or in-person sports betting allows its residents to bet on college basketball games. With that said, each state has its own rules when it comes to betting on college basketball. That means each state has regulations specific player prop bets and betting on in-state college teams. For example, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York do not allow their residents to bet on in-state college teams. 

However, there are plenty of other states that allow gambling on in-state teams and even player prop bets. States like Kansas, Maryland, and Michigan allow player prop bets for every college basketball game, including in-state teams. Some states are in the middle and allow player prop bets, but not for in-state teams. Those states include Connecticut, Illinois and Iowa, among others (Action). 

How to bet responsibly on college basketball

It’s important to remember that gambling is dangerous and could lead to financial and mental problems. That’s why it’s crucial to set your gambling budget beforehand and never “chase” your losses. 

Only bet what you can afford to lose, and make sure you see it as a form of paid entertainment by adding additional rooting interests to your experience of watching games. The reality is that it’s incredibly difficult to turn a profit long term betting on sports. The game is rigged too much in the sportsbook’s favor, so the more you bet, the more likely you are to lose money over a long time period. It’s therefore also good to set limits on yourself for how often you go on online sportsbook apps since the longer you stay on the app, the more money you may gamble. 

Gambling Addiction Help and Treatment

If you, a friend, or someone you love may be struggling with a gambling addiction, there is help available. Birches Health offers convenient online care for help that is tailored to each person. They also offer a 24/7 care team with a group of specially trained professionals, so you know you’re in good hands. Over 90% of patients feel an increase in quality of life after treatment at Birches Health.

If you believe you or someone else could benefit from the Birches Health offerings, please call (833) 483-3838 or email hello@bircheshealth.com.

References:

Total amount bet on March Madness US 2023 | Statista

2023 March Madness Wagering Estimates - American Gaming Association

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