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How Much is Bet on March Madness Each Year?

March Madness Betting Total Handle

College basketball provides bettors from all over the world with opportunities to win big. If you play your cards right – or more aptly, your bracket – you could see yourself on the right side of a huge payday.

The American Gaming Association (AGA) reports that approximately $8.5 billion was gambled on March Madness in 2019, with that number expected to grow in the years to come. This cool eight and a half “billi” – to quote Jay Z on the remix from Lil Wayne’s 2008 hit “A Milli” – accounts for bets done at legal sports betting sites in Vegas, inter-office pools, online sportsbooks and the NCAA basketball wager you made with your cousin. Has he paid you yet? Come on, Jimmy, pony up!

People Love to Bet on Sports, Especially March Madness

One in five American adults bet on the NCAA Tournament every year, creating approximately 149 million brackets. There are about 329 million people in the U.S. and nearly 40 million of them are laying down wagers on NCAA basketball.

The average bet on March Madness is $20 to $50 USD, or the cost of a latte at Starbucks. We kid. We’re all about extravagant coffee with nine pumps of mocha syrup and 13 shots of espresso. Gets us through the day.

This chart shows the total handle – a fancy way to say “amount bet” – in Las Vegas for March Madness since 2004.

Total Amount Bet in Las Vegas Since 2004
YearAmount Wagered (USD)
2019$460,000,000*
2018$458,189,114.78
2017$351,808,012.49
2016$337,788,235.29
2015$300,225,806.45
2014$274,831,858.41
2013$259,426,847.66
2012$230,928,281.46
2011$205,224,043.72
2010$211,248,677.25
2009$174,793,893.13
2008$191,171,631.21
2007$182,615,803.81
2006$156,422,264.88
2005$136,707,368.42
2004$122,313,375.80

*approximation based on AGA numbers – official amount not released yet

What about Traditional Sports Betting Types?

Out of the 40 million people in the United States who wager on the basketball tournament, only a select few will win their NCAA Tournament brackets. In fact, you have a 1 in 9.2 quintillion shot of picking all 63 games correctly. For this reason, we suggest looking into other betting angles on top of bracketry. We’re not saying you shouldn’t create a bracket, but you can bet on March Madness in other ways too.

We recommend the following:

  • Moneyline: Picking a winner of a game straight up
  • Point Spread: Choosing a team to cover by a certain number of points
  • Totals: Betting on the combined score to go OVER or UNDER the oddsmaker’s set number
  • Props: Individual player and team milestones like fouls, threes, etc.
  • Parlays: Bundling multiple bets on one betting slip – you can add other sports as well

Our NCAAB Betting News, Odds, Free Picks, and Consensus pages can help you handicap your bets.

What about the NCAA? Do They Clean Up During MM?

The schools do not see any of the money bet. But, they do get a piece of that sweet ad revenue and broadcasting rights pie. CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting – you know, the people who bring us NCIS (insert big city here) and every single Atlanta sports game ever – paid $19.6 billion for the streaming and television rights to the college basketball tournament from 2011 to 2032. By 2032, Shaq will be president and CEO of the entire world and we’ll all be living in hypoallergenic yurts, but there’s a possibility UCLA will finally win another title.

The average person watches at least six hours of March Madness each year, which is money well spent by the company behind Old and Young Sheldon. In 2018 alone, over 97 million Americans tuned in – that includes the people watching at home, on their phones and on their tablets. For context, in 2014, the University of Louisville’s basketball program made $41.7 million – that’s before they had to vacate some of their titles. Thanks, Rick Pitino!

March Madness is college basketball’s version of the Super Bowl. There are betting opportunities everywhere. Even if you just stick to a traditional bracket, you can still find fun spots to bet against your cousin.