Nevada Sportsbooks Set New Record for Basketball Betting in March

Per the latest revenue report issued by the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB), sportsbooks in the Silver State set yet another record for basketball betting activity in March, recording $429.5 million in total wagers.

Amidst the backdrop of college basketball’s “March Madness” climax, Nevada’s basketball handle eclipsed last year’s previous record-setting high of $422 million. And compared to March of 2015, bettors risked $54 million more on basketball wagers this time around.

Michael Lawton, a senior research analyst in the Tax and License Division for the NCGB, offered his professional take on the factors fueling such rapid rates of growth:

“The sports pools win was $31.4 million, up 225.3 percent, and that was driven by basketball.

It was an all-time record. So needless to say, the activity was generated from NCAA basketball tournament. It was extremely strong and stronger on the win than the volume. Basketball hold was very high, at 9.61 percent.”

The “win” Lawton spoke of refers to the total profit collected on basketball bets by Nevada’s assortment of 190 sportsbooks.

In March, the books hauled in a $41.275 million win – another record-setting figure for Nevada – creating a hold of 9.61 percent.

The previous record for basketball betting win was established in March of 2015, at $28 million, but this year easily shattered that mark.

And while the NGCB doesn’t differentiate between professional and college basketball as part of its internal accounting, Lawton estimates that 70 percent of the total handle was generated by the NCAA Tournament.

Using Lawton’s figure, Nevada’s books took in just over $300 million from bettors hoping to bank on the next National Champion. That represents a slight increase from the $295.4 million handle recorded during the 2016 NCAA Tournament.

Prior to March Madness getting underway, the American Gaming Association (AGA) – the top lobbying group working in Washington D.C. on behalf of the casino and sportsbook industry – published its annual estimates for wagering levels.

On March 13, only days before the NCAA Tournament tipped off, the AGA offered the following forecasts for March Madness betting:

“Of the $10.4 billion that will be wagered on the tournament in 2017, only about $295 million – or 3 percent – will be wagered legally through Nevada sports books. The remaining $10.1 billion will be spent on illegal offshore websites or through bookies.”

Using a methodology involving legal gambling activity at regulated sportsbooks, combined with extrapolations based on gross domestic product (GDP) growth to cover illicit wagering options, the AGA nearly hit Nevada’s handle figure of $300 million on the head.

Per the AGA report, the record-setting basketball betting which took place in Nevada’s legal bet shops represents just 3 percent of America’s overall volume.

The month also stands as a rebound of sorts for the state, following a disastrous January which saw favorites covering consistently to send $8.25 million in losses back to the betting public. That marked one of the industry’s worst football wagering months on record, but the damage was largely undone courtesy of March Madness.

The basketball wagering figures can be attributed to another nearly record-setting performance, as the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported that 3.78 million tourists flocked to Sin City in March.

That marks a 1.4 percent jump over last year, and makes March of 2017 the third-best month in Las Vegas history – trailing only July of 2016 (3.83 million) and October of 2015 (3.78 million).