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Bracketeering: Betting on college basketball bigger than ever

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It’s a game of numbers. 9,223,372,036,854,775,808. (No, I’m not going to write it out.) That’s how many options players have when they place their bets on “the brackets” this week. $8,500,000. That’s how much money they’ll wager, according to most estimates, including the consensus expert on gambling, the American Gaming Association.

And here’s one more number – 43. That’s how many states, including Utah, still have statutes on the books that makes sports gambling illegal. Then why is the game behind the game — betting on the brackets — so popular?

Fans of 68 teams in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship tournament, along with an estimated 50,000,000 more Americans started setting up their brackets Monday. Many of them will play the game at work. Combined, bracketeers will cost their employers at least $4 billion in lost productivity, according to a national survey by WalletHub.com.

Odds are astronomical against any of them filling out a perfect bracket. And even America’s chief resident bettor — billionaire Warren Buffet — is betting on that. Buffet announced again this week he’s offering $1,000,000 a year for life to any Berkshire Hathaway employee who turns in a perfect bracket. The founder of the company is seemingly unconcerned that sports gambling is still illegal in Nebraska, where his company is headquartered.

Fewer people are concerned with sports gaming this March, since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that allowed New Jersey to conduct sports betting. Nevada was already exempt from the nationwide gaming prohibition, and six other state legislatures quickly passed statutes making the practice legal. The list of states where sports gambling is legal in the U.S. looks like this:

  • Nevada
  • Delaware
  • New Jersey
  • Mississippi
  • West Virginia
  • New Mexico
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island

The ruling is a boon for bookmakers, such as DraftKings and other online services. The company’s CEO is predicting college sports will soon bring in billions of dollars.

“I think now that it will conceivably be the biggest piece of our business,” said Jason Robins, DraftKings CEO. “It’s a huge market. Estimates have it that $150 billion to $400 billion dollars are bet every year on college sports, and that’s just in the U.S.”

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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