More than 47 million Americans will place bets on the 2021 March Madness tournament, with online and physical sportsbook betting expected to grow dramatically compared to 2019, compensating for lower expected participation in bracket contests, according to new data from the American Gaming Association (AGA).
“The sports betting landscape has changed dramatically since 2019 – and as a result, tournament betting has transformed,” said AGA President and CEO Bill Miller. “As consumers formerly limited to bracket contests now enjoy access to legal sportsbook options, they also plan to place traditional sports bets as March Madness returns.”
While the overall number of Americans betting is flat from 2019, there have been significant shifts in how people plan to bet on the tournament this year. Bracket betting is expected to decline but more traditional sports bets placed online or at a brick-and-mortar sportsbooks are expected to more than double.
Since the 2019 tournament, 65.4 million more Americans have gained the opportunity to bet safely in legal markets in 13 new jurisdictions.
Key findings from the survey, conducted by Morning Consult, include:
- 47.4 million American adults will wager on March Madness, about the same number that indicated they would bet on the tournament in 2019.
- 36.7 million Americans will fill out a bracket, down 8% from 2019.
- 30.6 million Americans will place more traditional bets on this year’s tournament, up from 17.8 million in 2019.
- 17.8 million will place a bet online, up 206% from 5.8 million in 2019.
- 8.3 million will place a bet at a physical sportsbook, up 79% from 2019.
- Interest in the tournament is up slightly from 2019, with 26% of Americans saying they are extremely or very interested in the tournament, compared to 23% two years ago.
- 42% of fans said they followed college basketball more closely this season, with 70% of those following more closely attributing their increased attention either somewhat or very significantly to the increased availability of legal sports betting.
- Gonzaga University is the betting public’s favorite to win the tournament (17%), followed by Florida State University (11%) and Baylor University (8%).
“With more legal, regulated sports betting options than ever before, millions of customers now have safer ways to enjoy all the fun and suspense only March Madness provides,” said Miller.
- 25 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized sports betting, with 21 legal markets operational.
- 17 states currently have active or pre-filed legislation to legalize sports betting.
This survey was conducted on behalf of the AGA by Morning Consult between March 3-5, 2021 among a national sample of 2,200 adults. The interviews were conducted online and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of adults based on age, educational attainment, gender, race and region. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points and higher among subgroups. Bettors include those who expect to place a bet online, with a bookie, with a casino sportsbook, casually with a friend or participate in a bracket contest.