Betting on March Madness? You’re one of 47 million Americans projected to spend $8.5 billion

Betting on March Madness? You’re one of 47 million Americans projected to spend $8.5 billion
LSU basketball practices at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, FL, on Wednesday, March 20, 2019. (Source: Chris Blades)

WASHINGTON, DC (Gray News) - It’s that time of year when March Madness takes the country by storm.

A new American Gaming Association (AGA) study shows roughly 19 percent of Americans will bet on the annual NCAA basketball tournament less than a year after the Supreme Court gave states the green light to legalize sports betting. Fans and non-fans will come together for the bracket-busting tradition.

“It seems like kind of a crapshoot to be honest,” said Sarah Pugh, a Northeastern graduate who says she is only participating in her office pool because her Huskies are in the tournament.

Pugh admits she does not know much about basketball. Nonetheless, she forked over $5 for her office pool.

The AGA study says 47 million Americans will join Pugh and Edwards.

“There is really nothing like March Madness in the country,” said Bill Miller, the CEO of AGA.

Miller says 149 million brackets will be filled out and 18 million Americans will place bets at sports books, online or with a friend or bookie. The AGA is expecting $8.5 billion in wagers. He says the tide changed following last year’s Supreme Court decision that cleared the lane for states to legalize sports betting.

“Making the options available to people, will actually create a better environment,” said Miller.

The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) says odds are, those office space bettors are not going to be crowned champion, and their bank accounts do not believe in moral victories.

“Most casual bettors will lose everything they wager,” said Keith Whyte, executive director of NCPG.

Whyte says March is also problem gambling awareness month. He calls gambling the hidden addiction, because even though coworkers in an office pool might not show signs, they could be struggling.

“They know how much gambling has devastated their lives, but that urge to bet and especially if they think they’re a very good sports bettor,” said Whyte.

The NCAA Tournament round of 64 begins Thursday. The championship will be played on April 8 in Minneapolis.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a gambling addiction, you can call a crisis hotline at 1-800-322-4700.

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