News Mar 18, 2024 01:12 AM EDT

March Madness and Money: Tips for Enjoying the Games Without Gambling Away Your Savings

By April Fowell

Since the last March Madness tournament, more states have permitted legal sports betting for the sixth year in a row. Currently, sports betting is legal in 38 states and the District of Columbia; 30 of those jurisdictions, as well as the nation's capital, permit internet gambling.

March Madness and Money: Tips for Enjoying the Games Without Gambling Away Your Savings

Since the last March Madness tournament, more states have permitted legal sports betting for the sixth year in a row.
(Photo : by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

This is an improvement above Nevada, the only state where betting on college basketball games was permissible prior to the U.S. Supreme Court, which made expansion possible.

States have different laws governing sports betting. Certain states forbid wagering on home-state college teams or individual player performance. Some take wagers on a wide range of other items, like the amount of points, rebounds, and assists a certain player will total, in addition to the results of any collegiate games.

With the men's competition starting on Tuesday and the women's competition starting on Wednesday, here are some things you should know about sports betting as the tournaments get underway.

Big Gains

For many years, sports fans have competed against friends and family or in workplace pools by filling out brackets for the NCAA tournament. However, more formal gambling is being added to those informal wagers.

The American Gaming Association reports that, in 2023, wagers on all sports through licensed betting sites totaled over $121 billion, a 30% increase from the previous year. Sports betting companies made $11 billion after paying out prizes, which is an increase from around $7.5 billion the year before.

According to predictions from the American Gaming Association, licensed sports bookies will earn $2.7 billion from wagers on the NCAA women's and men's basketball tournaments this year.

Large wagers are placed on the Super Bowl, which consists of just one game between two NFL teams. A total of 136 teams compete in 134 games over three weeks in the NCAA Division 1 men's and women's basketball tournaments.

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Betting On Your Team

Even in states where sports betting is permitted, there is always a chance that certain fans may not be allowed to wager on their preferred teams and athletes.

There are bets on college football games featuring home-state teams in around a dozen states. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont are the other four states that forbid wagers on their own college teams in general but allow exceptions for events.

Some states only permit wagers on college football game results; wagers on individual players' performances are not permitted. For instance, Maryland and Ohio outlawed "proposition bets" on college athletes starting this month.

The NCAA is worried that player-specific wagering may result in issues such as harassment of collegiate athletes and stress on their mental health. The group adds that these bets can encourage participants to gamble on themselves or change how they play in order to influence bets based on statistics.

New States for Bettin

Around 6 states have either started or increased sports betting since the University of Connecticut emerged victorious in the men's tournament in the previous year.

While mobile wagering is not permitted, sports bets were accepted in Nebraskan casinos starting in June of last year. In September, Kentucky opened for sports betting in time for the NFL season, and in November, Maine followed suit.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida started accepting internet sports bets in December, in addition to betting at its casinos, following a court victory. While a case is pending before the Florida Supreme Court, wagering has not stopped. Critics have also questioned the U.S. Supreme Court will consider the matter.

Vermont began offering online sports betting in January. On March 11, one day prior to the start of the highly anticipated ACC men's basketball tournament but one day following the conclusion of the women's tournament, North Carolina, which had previously only permitted sports betting at three tribal casinos, started allowing online sports gambling nationwide.

Odds for Other States

A number of states might follow suit and provide sports betting.

The St. Louis Cardinals are spearheading a group of professional sports franchises in Missouri who are endorsing an initiative petition that would put sports betting on the November ballot in a state where legislative attempts to legalize it have been unsuccessful on many occasions. DraftKings and FanDuel, two sports betting companies, have each given $3 million to the cause. By the deadline of May 5, supporters believe they will have more signatures than needed.

Georgian and Alabaman lawmakers are also thinking about amending their constitutions to allow sports betting. A bill that Georgia senators approved last month still need a two-thirds majority in the House in order to be included on the ballot this year.

In a comprehensive gaming bill, the Alabama House includes sports betting; but, earlier this month, the state Senate removed it. The House must now choose whether to approve that modification or work out a final version that will be presented to voters.

Oklahoma and Minnesota are also considering passing legislation to allow sports betting. On Thursday, a committee in the Minnesota state Senate approved an amended version that would increase the suggested tax rate.

Mississippi is thinking about allowing internet betting after legalizing casino sports betting in 2018. A measure is currently before the state Senate after passing the House last month.

Betting Over State Lines

Even though it's still prohibited in twelve states, some citizens nonetheless gamble across state borders. Some residents of Missouri's two major cities, Kansas City and St. Louis, travel to the closest freeway exit ramps or commuter lots in Illinois or Kansas, respectively, to use mobile applications to legally make bets. Technology thwarts the efforts of many other potential bettors.

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