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Fewer brackets but same number plan bets on March Madness

Fans watch college basketball in the sports betting facility at the Tropicana casino in...
Fans watch college basketball in the sports betting facility at the Tropicana casino in Atlantic City, N.J. on March 8, 2019, the last year the March Madness tournament was held. The American Gaming Association predicts 47 million people will bet on this year's tournament, about the same as two years ago. But 8% fewer plan to fill out brackets pools because many offices remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.(AP Photo/Wayne Parry)
Published: Mar. 14, 2021 at 1:45 PM PDT
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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) - Fewer Americans expect to fill out brackets for the NCAA’s college basketball tournament this year, but the overall number of people making bets on March Madness is likely to remain about the same as the last time the tournament was held, in 2019.

The American Gaming Association says 47 million Americans plan to bet this year.

The coronavirus pandemic is a big reason that 8% fewer Americans likely will fill out brackets because many offices remain closed. But the slack is expected to be made up for by the rapid expansion of legal sports betting in the U.S.

The association says 30.6 million Americans will bet in other ways on this year’s tournament, up from 17.8 million in 2019.

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Key findings from the AGA 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%).