Sportsbooks Suffer Huge Hit With No March Madness

Posted on March 19, 2020 - Last Updated on July 2, 2020

Let us mourn.

March Madness fans let out a collective groan when news broke that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

Subsequently, social media scrambled for an adequate response. Sports bettors and sports fans rushed to the news with GIFs, quips, and utter shock.

From a local perspective, the unceremonious elimination of the 2020 NCAA Tournament leads Coloradans to wrestle with what they, and the nationwide sports betting industry, will lose.

Cancellation creates a possible $8 billion sports betting loss

In 2019, the American Gaming Association (AGA) published its predictions about the handle for that year’s March Madness.

The estimates were staggering:

  • 47 million adults would wager a collective $8.5 billion on the men’s tournament
  • 40 million people would fill out 149 million brackets, wagering $4.6 billion on those brackets
  • 18 million Americans would place $3.9 billion in bets “at a sportsbook, online, with a bookie or with a friend”

After the fact, data revealed that Las Vegas sportsbooks took nearly $500 million in handle in March 2019 on basketball. Books won $36.5 million, or about 7.3% of the handle.

Since the March Madness cancellation is unprecedented, it’s hard to say what long-term effects (if any), a tourney-less spring will have for sportsbooks across the country.

In a certain sense, revenue projections are a moot point for Colorado sportsbooks because none have launched yet. However, operators like DraftKings will feel the sting in other states in which they count on March Madness revenue.

University of Colorado men’s, women’s basketball lose out

The tournament cancellation dashed the dreams of hopeful teams across the country, including upstart squads from San Diego State and Dayton.

The men’s and women’s teams from the University of Colorado are suffering, too.

The men’s team was a projected eighth seed as of March 12, according to ESPN’s Bracketology. On the other hand, the women’s team was listed in Bracketology’s “First Four Out” alongside West Virginia, Alabama, and North Carolina.

However, the women’s team position could have changed depending on how other teams performed (or didn’t performed) in conference tournaments.

Cancellation is the first in NCAA history

The first NCAA tournament was played in 1939. Since that time, not a single tournament has been canceled. The tourney survived World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. It battled its way through multiple recessions and many an uncertain time.

The iconic post-season battle royale even weathered the threat of polio, which stoked the same fears and uncertainties America faces with coronavirus.

However, the threat was too much for NCAA President Mark Emmert, who announced on March 12 the NCAA decided to cancel the tournament.

According to the NCAA’s statement, the popular tournament was canceled because there was no way to effectively ensure tourney crowds didn’t spread the virus.

JR Duren Avatar
Written by
JR Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey gambling beats for Catena Media. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun. Duren is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

View all posts by JR Duren