March Madness is upon us and as new states launch their online mobile betting just in time for the collegiate betting bonanza, we sit down with BettorOff CEO and co-founder Alex Dubin to discuss the event and what it’s going to mean for sports fans and sportsbooks.
Q: What is the biggest reason why this tournament has become as popular as it has from a betting perspective?
The interest that accompanies March Madness is virtually unparalleled by any sporting event in the United States. Sixty-four schools will be involved, so take all those students and alumni, then add the local and statewide fans and finally the national fans for programs like Duke, UNC, Kentucky, Michigan and UCLA; the number of people who are passionately engaged in this tournament is incredible and people love betting on games that matter to them.
Q: What makes the format of March Madness so intriguing from a betting stance?
Bracket-style tournaments are always intriguing to bet on because of all the possible storylines, machinations and outcomes.
Historic upsets (UVA becoming the first #1 seed to lose to a #16 in the first round of the 2018 tournament); opportunities for redemption (UVA winning the National Championship the very next year); storied rivalries (Duke/UNC, Michigan/Ohio State, Kentucky/Louisville); Cinderella stories (NC State (’83) and Villanova (’85) winning it all, George Mason (’06) and Wichita State (’13) to the final four and countless early and mid-round upsets that happen at least a few times every year) and, of course, the opportunity to pick games that your alma mater or favourite team is playing in.
March Madness is one of the top, if not the top, sporting event for social betting. Virtually every household, workplace and friend group has bracket challenges.
Everyone participates – even those who have never watched NCAA basketball. For those who need a place to turn with help in filling out their brackets, or want to compete against friends – including at a more granular level than just brackets, that is where we can really help. BettorOff has niche experts that can help with a tournament of this kind where there are probably some teams that people don’t follow closely or have never heard of.
Q: The main betting focus for March Madness looks to be down to bets on how a specific player will fare rather than a team. Why is this and how does that differ from other major US sporting events?
Prop bets, specifically player-based props, are more popular now than ever before. The ability to focus on one player’s performance often allows bettors to feel they can concentrate on the prop without having to account for too many variables. Whether or not a player scores 30 points on a given night is a very straightforward bet, especially if the bettor feels like they really know that player and that matchup. It can also be great fun to really pay attention and root for one player during the course of a game; it can almost feel like you are in it together.
Q: Following on from record numbers recorded in bets placed at the Super Bowl, do you expect something similar for March Madness?
Absolutely. As legalised online sports betting continues its explosive growth, major events such as the Super Bowl and March Madness are primed to grow right alongside it. The NCAA Tournament, in particular, draws such an incredible annual handle because of the number of teams involved and the number of games played (67 including the play-ins). I would be shocked if this year’s tournament did not break records.
Q: Are there any states in particular that you are keeping an eye on from a betting perspective? Is there one state in particular that could provide a real betting surge for March Madness?
Indiana, no question. The Hoosier State lives and dies by basketball and this year, they will have two bitter in-state rivals in the tournament, both with a very real chance of making a deep run (Purdue – #5 nationally at the time of writing this and Indiana – #15).
Q: What is your prediction for the US as a whole for March Madness in terms of wagering?
Because of its broad appeal and sheer volume of games to watch and bet on (every single one of which is televised and livestreams), The NCAA Tournament has become the highest-grossing sporting event in the country by handle. The American Gaming Association estimates over $8 billion in handle on this year’s tournament and I could reasonably see it surpassing $10 billion, especially if some of the more nationally popular teams go deep into the tournament.