LAS VEGAS – The growth of sports betting continues to be shown in Nevada’s betting figures as the state’s sports books set another record handle last month, according to figures released Monday morning by the state’s Gaming Control Board, though March Madness bettors fared a little better than in last year’s tournament.
Nevada’s overall sports betting handle in March was more than $520 million, a 9% increase over the $470 million in March 2017. There was also a record $436.5 million wagered on basketball (note: the state doesn’t separate figures into NBA and college basketball) compared to $429.5 million last March. The sports books won $38 million from basketball bettors, though that was a decrease of 7.88% from last year.
The overall win for the state was $34.16 million, which was an increase of 8.66% from March 2017. That number is lower than the basketball win, but that’s because the books took an $11 million loss on football (as we’ve discussed in these monthly reports, that’s due to people waiting to cash in their past tickets, such as futures and over/under win totals from the previous season, as well as any individual game tickets).
Last year at this time, VSiN’s Vinny Magliulo estimated that it’s generally regarded in the industry that 70% of the March basketball handle comes from the NCAA men’s tournament. Applied to the $436.5 million b-ball handle, that would put the college handle at around $305,550,000 (and that doesn’t include the Final Four and NCAA title game that were played in April). Going on previous estimates of $5 million handle on those games, that puts the overall “March Madness” handle around $320 million, or right around doubling this year’s record Super Bowl handle of $158.58 million (though the men’s basketball tourney obviously has the advantage of having 67 games compared to one Super Bowl).
Other interesting notes (at least in my opinion) from the state’s monthly report:
* There's a separate "sports parlay cards" category that showed a profit of $3.855 million in March for an increase of 617.61%. As I speculated on Twitter, this is likely due to the ever-increasing amount of wagering being done in Nevada on mobile betting apps, plus the fact a lot of apps didn't include parlay cards in past years (you could parlay games at their current odds, but not using the locked-in parlay card lines). Now, they're much more common, plus you can also add in the fact that more tourists continue to be educated each year that they can open mobile betting accounts during their stays in Nevada. It's also interesting to note that the hold percentage on parlay cards was 24.83%, much higher than straight bets.
* The books won more than $2 million from baseball bettors in March, an increase of a whopping 472.21%. If you think about it for a few seconds, you can probably figure out why: the MLB regular season started on Thursday, March 29, the earliest baseball has ever started with the full schedule of games (and the gaming figures would have been higher if not for all the early rainouts/snowouts/etc.).
* The success of the expansion Golden Knights continue to drive the growth in hockey wagering here in Las Vegas. Hockey is still included in the “other” category of all other sports besides football, basketball, baseball and horse racing, and the books handled a robust $53 million in that category, but won only $1.24 million, down 45.33 percent from last year, on a very low hold percentage of just 2.35%.
* Horse racing earned $4.111 million for the race books, nearly identical to March 2017 as the win was down just 0.26%. The pari-mutuel systems keeps the hold percentage right around 17%.
March 2018 Nevada Gaming Figures
Category 2018 Win/Loss %Change Hold%
Overall $34,163,000 8.66 6.55
Football -$11,059,000 15.11 -909.63
Basketball $38,025,000 -7.88 8.71
Baseball -$2,096,000 472.21 12.91
Sports Parlay Cards $3,855,000 617.61 24.83
Sports Pari-Mutuel $2,000 -84.22 34.08
Other* $1,244,000 -45.33 2.35
Horse Racing $4,111,000 -0.26 17.01
%Change is compared to same month last year
Hold% is percentage the books won/lost from the handle in that category
*Other includes hockey, golf, auto racing and all other sports except for horse racing.