For most Americans, March is when they put their money where their brackets are, opting to lay down cold hard cash on the season’s top college ballers.
According to estimates from the American Gambling Association, this year promises to be a lucrative one — to the tune of $10 billion, to be exact.
Although it might sound like a slam dunk in terms of revenue, according to ESPN — who reported the stats — only 3 percent of the bets are expected to take place legally. That’s a serious foul.
The AGA reports that last year, 24 million people bet on their favorites in NCAA Tournament pools, submitting over 60 million brackets. For scale, that would be like if every person in Australia participated. Most March Madness participants tend to skirt the rules, however — paid-entry pools are the most popular mode of entry, which are actually illegal in most states, according to the AGA.
“Most of this activity, it turns out, is likely illegal, whether it should be or not,” Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the Washington-based association told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “A recent AGA-commissioned legal analysis found that pool betting, including March Madness brackets and most casual betting between two or more people, is generally illegal in 37 of our 50 states. In several states, it can be considered a felony.” So it turns out that not only could you be betting on a team that will lose you money, but you could be thrown in jail for it, too.
The true madness is that 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. Many states are beginning to lead the fight against the PASPA — or the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act — which was enacted in 1992, making sports betting illegal for amateur and collegiate sports. According to Freeman, “18 states are working toward making sports wagering legal within their borders with 48 pieces of legislation should the Supreme Court overturn or modify the PASPA.”
If you — or maybe the whole office — want to participate in the madness for yourself, the NCAA Tournament kicks off today at 6:40 p.m. EST on TruTV.
Click here to read more about the money behind the March Madness.