While the push for the legalization of sports wagering on a national level moves forward, the handle in Nevada continues to surge.
The latest example was March Madness. Using numbers released by the state’s Gaming Control Board as a guide, an estimated $315 million was wagered on the NCAA Tournament in March and early April. By all accounts, that’s a record figure.
The NGCB reported a record $429.5 million was wagered on basketball — college and NBA combined — in March. The sports books do not report specific handle figures on the 67-game NCAA Tournament, but there is a way to make an estimation.
“Based on my experience and in speaking with colleagues, 70 percent is a good number,” said Vinny Magliulo, VSiN oddsmaker and Gaughan Gaming sports book director.
Seventy percent of the $429.5 million combined handle is $300,650,000. With 64 NCAA Tournament games in March, the average handle would be $4,697,656 per game. Add three Final Four games in April, slightly bumping the amount bet on those games, and the handle reaches $315 million.
North Carolina defeated Gonzaga 71-65 in the NCAA championship game on April 3.
In early February, the Super Bowl wagering handle of $138.5 million set another record in Nevada. The NFL title game brought a crush of customers to Las Vegas books, and the synergy carried over to college basketball a month later.
“An expanded betting menu and mobile apps, along with the promotion of those features, kept the handle momentum going strong on the heels of a record Super Bowl handle,” Magliulo said.
“We continue to see repeat visitors during March Madness because it’s become a very popular social event. But we’re seeing new visitors, too, as they have become aware of the many betting options we provide here and want more action to go with their bracket selections.”
The sports betting handle in Nevada was $4.2 billion in 2015. It was projected to approach $5 billion in 2016, though the official figure has yet to be announced.
Mobile apps, mainstream and social media interest, the expansion of in-game and proposition wagering, fantasy sports’ popularity, Las Vegas book upgrades and various other factors are creating a perfect sports wagering storm in Nevada. The state recently loosened some restrictions, too — allowing Super Bowl MVP, Heisman Trophy and NFL Draft propositions, for example — to help drive the handle.