Nevada, New Jersey Cash in on March Madness
About three weeks ago, I had what may have been the best sports moment of my life as a fan when my Virginia Cavaliers men’s basketball team won its first-ever national championship, a title which felt especially sweet after the failings of last year’s tournament. I was not the only one to have relished the NCAA tournament this year, though, as both Nevada and New Jersey had incredible months of March thanks to the college basketball spectacle.
Sports Betting Numbers Through the Roof
According to the monthly financial figures put out by the Nevada Gaming Control Board, the state of Nevada accepted nearly $600 million in sports bets – $596.8 million to be exact – in March, a new record for a state that is clearly best known for gambling. The previous record was set four months earlier, during peak football season, at $582.3 million.
The vast majority of the record setting March was because of basketball, which was fueled by March Madness. Basketball bets accounted for $495.1 million of Nevada’s handle (total wagers placed) and what’s even more amazing is that the Final Four, featuring Virginia, Auburn, Texas Tech, and Michigan State took place in April, so loads of bets placed on those three games didn’t even factor into March’s numbers.
Total sports betting handle in March increased $75.2 million from the same month last year. Net profits decreased, though, as the sportsbooks’ win percentage fell from 6.55 percent to 5.45 percent.
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament was also a boon for New Jersey, which just saw sports gambling legalized last year; this was the first March Madness during which people could place bets in the Garden State. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement reported at the Betting On Sports America conference in Secaucus that more than $106 million was bet on the tournament and that sportsbooks made $10.8 million on those bets.
Overall, New Jersey books took in around $370 in sports bets in the month of March.
As is always the case with a big sporting event, some interesting individual betting stories have come to light. ESPN reported that a bold bettor let a possible $300,000 payday ride on the outcome of the Virginia-Texas Tech championship game.
The bettor, who was unnamed, put $1,500 on Texas Tech in November at the Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas at 200-1 odds to win the title in April. He wanted to bet more on the team that began the season at 40-1, but Westgate wouldn’t let him. Fast forward to the end of the season, and after Texas Tech beat Michigan State in the Final Four, the man was one game away from winning $300,000.
A lot of – maybe most – people would have hedged, putting a sizable bet on Virginia in order to guarantee a profit, but the bettor decided to just roll with it. He put the bet up on a site called PropSwap where bettors can sell futures tickets, but never accepted an offer. Before the game against Michigan State, he had an offer from NFL star Dez Bryant for $50,000 and later another offer from someone for $57,500, but he wanted $65,000. Then, before the final game, he had an offer for $125,000, but didn’t take it.
As for why he didn’t hedge, the man told ESPN.com, “The way I think about it is, if I hedged they probably wouldn’t have won. Say Texas Tech beats Michigan State but Jarrett Culver gets hurt. Then all of your assumptions about Texas Tech and how much you should hedge now and in the final game goes out the window. It’s much nicer to take the fixed amount and not have the hassle of thinking about anything else.
“People make hedging sound easier than it is, both in having money lying around [and how to] bet on this stuff. You can easily make a mistake, and then it might not pan out the way you think it might.”
He did have an $800 Texas Tech ticket that he sold for $20,250 before the Michigan State game and he did have some smaller bets that he had previously made on Virginia, but he did not make a big hedge wager. The man also put futures bets on other teams early in the season, so it’s not like he was going all season riding Texas Tech. The odds he got on the Red Raiders were massive, though, so one would think he was clearly sweating them for months.
Unfortunately for him – and fortunately for me as a Virginia alum – he lost his Texas Tech bet, as Virginia tied the game on a late three-pointer and went on to win in overtime. Both teams, arguably the two best defensive teams in the country, were in their first championship game. It was Texas Tech’s first Final Four, as well, while it was Virginia’s third and its first since 1984.