Duke entered the NCAA Tournament as the heaviest favorite in four years.
The Duke Blue Devils are the heaviest favorites entering the NCAA tournament since the 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats, who arrived at the Big Dance undefeated but lost in the Final Four.
If the Blue Devils come up short this year, millions of brackets will be busted and the bulk of the billions of dollars wagered on the tournament champion will end up staying with bookmakers.
More money was bet on Duke to win the national title than any other team at sportsbooks across the nation this season. Nineteen percent of the money wagered on the odds to win the championship at William Hill U.S. sportsbooks is on the Blue Devils.
Duke, the top seed in the East Region, is listed at 2-1 to win the tournament at multiple sportsbooks. The 2014-15 Kentucky team was near even-money to win the tournament, only to lose to Wisconsin in a Final Four upset.
According to a survey, 1 in 5 American adults will place a bet on the tournament.
Forty million Americans will combine to fill out 149 million brackets this week, and 18 million adults will bet on the tournament with a bookmaker, the survey found. All together, $8.5 billion is expected to be wagered on March Madness. The AGA estimates that the NCAA tournament generates 40 percent more betting handle than the Super Bowl, making it the most heavily bet U.S. sporting event.
“Unlike any other sporting event in the country, March Madness attracts millions who fill out brackets, make casual bets with friends or wager at a legal sportsbook, which Americans can now do more than ever before,” Bill Miller, president and chief executive officer of the AGA, said in a release announcing the survey results.
A bettor in Mississippi hit on a 20-leg parlay.
On March 8, what may be the greatest parlay wager ever to hit at a U.S. sportsbook was placed on one of them — a $25, 20-leg bet that paid $104,412.44.
BetAmerica, the sportsbook operator for Riverwalk, said the parlay resulted in its largest payout since the book opened in August. Through the sportsbook, the bettor asked not to be identified.
The parlay featured point spreads, money lines and over/unders on a mix of Friday night NBA and college basketball games. The bettor backed 14 favorites, three underdogs and three overs. They all came through, but there were some close calls.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said legalized sports betting decreases the risk of corruption. Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick disagrees. Both were interviewed for an episode of 60 Minutes that will air this Sunday.
Hamrick thinks that with legalized gambling offering so many different ways to wager on a game, including more and more bets placed during games, it may be easier to convince an unpaid athlete to influence a game. “It’s very tempting. It’s very tempting,” he says. “They can be compromised. And– our job is to make sure they’re not compromised,” says Hamrick, who says educating them to potential schemes is crucial.
You also have to be vigilant, he says, “You see a key player on your team driving a brand new car, you got to find out where that car came from.”
Most professional sports leagues have lined up behind legalizing betting, believing it creates more engagement and more fans because bettors are very likely to watch the contests they wager on. Many also argue, including NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, that legal gambling provides a record of all the bets made, revealing patterns and shining light on a previously shadowy and illegal business. Silver believes it would actually thwart corrupt gamblers who may fear they’re more likely to get caught. “I think it decreases risk dramatically,” Silver says, “Because we have access to the betting information. I think when you have an underground business operating in the shadows, you have no idea what people are betting on your own events.”
Two casinos in West Virginia that suspended sports betting operations are still suspended.
State Lottery Director John Myers announced Wednesday both retail locations and the betting app for Delaware North properties Wheeling Island Casino in Wheeling and Mardi Gras Casino in Cross Lanes remain offline because of a contract dispute that continues between the company’s management services provider and a third-party, technology vendor.
The plug was first pulled on sports betting at the two facilities March 6. Myers said Wednesday Delaware North had been “very active” in trying to mediate a settlement.
“I know that they are talking. I can’t tell you they are talking calmly at this point,” Myers said.
In the same article, West Virginia Lottery Director John Myers said mobile sports betting is on hold due to a new opinion on the Wire Act recently made by the U.S. Department of Justice.
There are currently no mobile apps available for the other three casinos with sports betting, Mountaineer Racetrack and Casino, The Greenbrier and Hollywood Casino at Charles Town. Myers said Wednesday ongoing questions about a separate issue involving the federal Wire Act at the U.S. Department of Justice is holding things up on that front.
“It’s kind of given everybody caution on how to move forward until we can get that resolved,” Myers said. “We are doing everything we can to try and work through that. We’ve been working through our national organization to try and get some idea on how the DOJ decision is going to come down.”
A casino in Pittsburgh started accepting sports bets just in time for the NCAA Tournament.
In Pittsburgh, people were placing legal sports bets at Rivers Casino for the first time on Thursday.
“If you would have asked me 43 years ago, would we be here like this, I wouldn’t have had an answer for you,” said Jimmy Vaccaro, a bookmaker. “Remember back then the gambling thing was more of a niche crowd but now, as you can see, mainstream America is involved.
Maryland will not hold a vote to legalize sports betting this year.
Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said Thursday that the General Assembly will not consider legislation this year to legalize sports gambling, meaning that the earliest the state could implement a system to authorize and tax betting on athletic contests is likely 2021.
“Sports betting is going to have to wait until next year,” Miller (D-Calvert) said Thursday when asked if lawmakers would consider legislation before the General Assembly adjourns early next month.
Miller, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) had all expressed support late last year for legislation to approve sports betting, so that Maryland would not lag behind other states who are legalizing the practice.
But Miller said Thursday that the office of Attorney General Brian K. Frosh (D) told legislative leaders that the only way for Maryland to expand gambling is to amend the state constitution, which requires a public referendum.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is not keen on online sports betting.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who in January signaled support for a limited rollout of sports gambling, told WAMC News on Monday that he is “not a fan” of expanding that form of betting to the internet. The governor also downplayed the potential economic benefits that could come with mobile wagering in New York.
Nearly two months ago, state regulators approved narrow rules that would only allow sports gambling at Native American-owned casinos and the four private gaming halls upstate, including Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady.
Cuomo described the plan as an attempt to “fortify” the upstate casinos.
The limited blueprint, which will soon be subject to a 60-day public comment period, is based on the restrictive gambling language in the state constitution.
“If we want to expand it beyond the land-based casinos … we need a constitutional amendment,” state Budget Director Robert Mujica told reporters when the state budget was revealed in January.
A Montana state senator has introduced a sports betting bill.
The bill calls for the state Department of Justice to collect 8.5 percent of a licensed sports book’s gross receipts minus winnings paid and federal excise tax each quarter for deposit in a special revenue fund.
The DOJ would be allowed to reimburse itself from the fund for expenses related to sports betting and use up to 15 percent of the fund’s deposits to cover operating expenses. Any surplus remaining in the fund exceeding $250,000 would revert to the state general fund.
The bill also outlines the costs of doing business for sports book operators — a $1,000 annual licensing fee, a $100 fee for betting kiosks and 5 percent of net income to be paid to the licensed gambling location in which they operate. The bill outlines a similar $1,000 fee for “platform operators,” or sports books that operate online.
Despite allowing platform operations, the bill restricts even online betting to physical locations licensed by the state to house a sports betting operation.
Connecticut lawmakers passed some bills related to sports betting.
Lawmakers passed several bills Tuesday, ranging from legislation that would skirt federal approval to authorize the building of a casino in East Windsor, to blueprints for how sports betting could be adopted in the state.
Seven states already have legalized sports betting since a recent change in the federal law, and Connecticut could be next.
But that’s not what state Rep. Craig Fishbein (R-Cheshire, Wallingford) wants. He pointed out ways that gambling can be bad for bettors and the sports that they bet on, and then he voted ‘no’ during a Public Safety and Security Committee meeting at the Legislative Office Building.
“I don’t see this being of benefit to our state other than monetarily and I think that’s wrong,” Fishbein said.
But state Sen. Steve Cassano (D-Andover, Bolton, Glastonbury, Manchester) supports the bill exactly because the state can make money off of sports betting. Cassano brought up March Madness and how many locals are already gambling on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament that comes to Hartford this week.
“Gambling is here,” Cassano said. “We’re not keeping something away. We’re not licensing something that already exists. We’re getting in on the action is what it comes down to.”
A 4-part sports betting docu-series will debut on Showtime on Sunday.
The cable network Showtime on Sunday (8 p.m.) will be kicking off a four-part series examining sports betting, the complicated, intimidating and often frustrating world where people try to predict how other people will perform, often under impossible pressure.
“The act of gambling is part of what we are as humans,” sports gaming psychiatrist Timothy Fong said in the first episode. “It tickles our psychology. It tickles our [need for] natural rewards. A patient said it so well. He said, ‘Gambling is like eating, breathing and sleeping. It makes me feel alive.’”
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Each Friday, we’ll comb through as many articles, tweets and podcasts as we can find related to the world of sports betting and daily fantasy sports, and publish the good stuff here.
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