NCAA Tournament Betting Revenue: Multiple States Are Missing Out

A wide interior view of the Wells Fargo Center during the mens college basketball game between the Butler Bulldogs and Villanova Wildcats on January 16, 2022, at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA
Image Credit: Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

March Madness is nearly upon us, and over the next three weeks, the eyes of the sports world — and the sports betting world — will be fixated on the NCAA Tournament, which will be played in 13 venues across 10 states. Legal sports betting is available in seven of those states, with mobile betting allowed in six. And yet many of these jurisdictions are losing out on NCAA Tournament betting revenue because of various regulations related to wagering on college sports.

For instance, all six states that permit mobile betting have some form of restriction on college betting. These include bans such as prop betting, “live” (in-game) wagering, and placing action on in-state schools.

Make no mistake, these restrictions will cost states a lot of money — and not just from residents. Along with the teams and their entourages, legions of fans and supporters travel to each NCAA Tournament location. And many of these fans will be looking to place bets on Tournament games. 

According to a 2018 study, the Final Four attracts about 100,000 out-of-state visitors. While not as well-attended as a Final Four destination, first and second-round sites host eight teams and six games. Compared that with the Final Four, which hosts four teams and three games. In other words, visitation numbers at early-round sites could be on par with the numbers New Orleans will attract for this year’s Final Four.

Not Your Average Sports Bettors

A bettor pays for wagers on some of the more than 400 proposition bets for Super Bowl LI between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots at the SuperBook at the Westgate Las Vegas
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Another important factor to consider: When traveling fans and locally-based alumni place NCAA Tournament wagers on their team, they tend to be larger-than-ordinary bets. The reasons: 

  • Tickets to March Madness games aren’t cheap, so those traveling to these destinations are likely to have some disposable income.
  • Traveling bettors also are likely to have more than a casual interest in one of the teams. Which is to say, they’re more apt to place action multiple (if not all) games taking place at the venue they’re attending.
  • The NCAA Tournament is a marquee annual event. People plan pleasure trips to attend these games (and establish wagering budgets accordingly).

Taking all that into account, let’s consider how much money a state hosting one of this year’s NCAA Tournament events potentially forfeits because of a blanket prohibition on college betting (looking at you, Oregon). If a Tournament host site attracts 100,000 adult visitors … and 17 percent of those tourists are bettors (the nationwide average projected by the American Gaming Association) … and those bettors average a very conservative $250 in wagers … the state would miss out on $4.25 million in handle.

Now let’s say these hypothetical bettors average $1,000 per wager. The total lost handle jumps to $17 million — and that’s just from visitors. 

Rules, Rules, Rules

An overview of the empty arena as players warm up for the college basketball game between the Ohio Bobcats and the Illinois Fighting Illini on November 27, 2020, at the State Farm Center in Champaign
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The good news for fans attending this year’s NCAA Tournament games in person: Most host sites are in states that permit wagering on college sports. The bad news: Most also have some form of limitations. Those states include:

Illinois: Two college betting restrictions exist in the Land of Lincoln, both centered on in-state schools. Illinois prohibits mobile wagering on in-state teams (bettors can place wagers on Illinois colleges and universities in-person at retail sportsbooks). The state also bans all prop bets on games involving in-state teams. 

The former rule came into play in last year’s NCAA Tournament, when the University of Illinois and Loyola (Chicago) faced off in the second round in neighboring Indianapolis. Think about how many fans of both schools would’ve liked to have wagered on that game but couldn’t do so (legally) within the state’s borders? Well, don’t look now but Illinois and Loyola (Chicago) are back in this year’s NCAA Tournament … and once again, both are in the same region of the March Madness bracket.

Louisiana: Louisiana has a blanket ban on college prop bets, which means bettors can only place pregame side and/or totals wagers. No in-game bets or wagering on individual performances are allowed. The state also bans all betting in certain parishes, though none are near a major city (including the 2022 Final Four host site, New Orleans).

Indiana: The Hoosier State allows certain prop bets, but only before tip-off. There is no in-game wagering on individual player props permitted in Indiana.

New York: Like Louisiana, New York doesn’t allow prop bets on college games. The Empire State also forbids wagering on any games involving in-state college teams. But since the state’s only NCAA Tournament entrant this year is Colgate, that probably won’t be much of an issue. 

New Jersey: The Garden State has the same in-state ban as its bordering big brother. This means New Jersey residents can forget about betting on Seton Hall or Rutgers in this year’s Tournament. Furthermore, New Jersey also prohibits betting on any college event played within the state’s borders. Here’s why that’s potentially a massive deal: If the state doesn’t change that law, fans who attend the 2025 East Regional won’t be able to bet on any of the three games that will be played at the Prudential Center in Newark.

Oregon: What might happen in New Jersey in three years is happening in the Beaver State this week. Fans attending Thursday’s four West Region games in Portland aren’t allowed to place wagers through DraftKings, the state’s lone legal mobile sportsbook. If you happen to be traveling to Portland for these contests and want to get some action down, you have two (legal) options: Place your bets before you depart (if you live in a state with legalized sports betting), or take a detour to one of a handful of retail sportsbooks at authorized tribal casinos.

Pennsylvania: College betting restrictions in the Keystone State mean no prop bets on Villanova — or any other tournament team. Notably, Pennsylvania hosts first- and second-round games in Pittsburgh, and the East Regional Final in Philadelphia. Fans attending those games who want to place prop bets will have to do so elsewhere.

The Road to the Final Four

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - APRIL 05: Fans begin to arrive before the game between the Gonzaga Bulldogs and the Baylor Bears prior to the National Championship game of the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 05, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (
Image Credit: Trevor Brown Jr/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

For reference, here are the host sites for the 2022 Tournament:

First and Second Round Game Locations

  • Buffalo, New York – Thursday & Saturday*
  • Indianapolis – Thursday & Saturday* 
  • Fort Worth, Texas – Thursday & Saturday 
  • Portland, Oregon – Thursday & Saturday**
  • Greenville, South Carolina – Friday & Sunday 
  • Milwaukee – Friday & Sunday***
  • Pittsburgh – Friday & Sunday*
  • San Diego – Friday & Sunday 

Regional Semifinals (Sweet Sixteen) and Finals (Elite Eight)

  • South Regional: San Antonio – March 24 & 26, 2022 
  • West Regional: San Francisco – March 24 & 26, 2022
  • Midwest Regional: Chicago – March 25 & 27, 2022*
  • East Regional: Philadelphia – March 25 & 27, 2022*

National Semifinals (Final Four) and Championship

  • New Orleans – April 2 & 4, 2022*

*Full mobile betting, multiple legal sportsbooks
**One legal mobile site (no college betting permitted)
***Retail (non-mobile) wagering only

All unmarked sites have no legal retail or online betting options

Steven Rudduck is a Senior Gaming Analyst at, an affiliated site of