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Arizona sportsbooks expecting large crowds, revenue for first March Madness betting cycle

Sportsbooks across the Valley expect to see hyper-increased handle and revenue spikes with the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournaments underway.

With sports betting legalized in Arizona on September 9, 2021, this will be the first time the public has the opportunity to wager on what is one of the most bet on sporting events in the United States. More than 17 percent of American adults plan to wager $3.1 billion on this year’s NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament, according to a recent survey from the American Gaming Association.

“The people of Arizona waited a long time for this first legal March and we’re happy to be hosting them today here at FanDuel,” said Jeff Hoose, a FanDuel regional manager.

Other states have been able to bet on NCAA Tournament games in previous years. New Jersey, the state that has seen the largest sports betting handle and revenue of any state since June 2018, produced a handle of more than $859 million in March 2021. So far, December 2021 is the top-performing month for Arizona, bringing in just a handle just under $500 million. Arizona’s numbers may not reach New Jersey’s level, but the state could still see a new statewide high.

Christopher Boan, a sports betting insider and lead writer for BetArizona.com, believes over half a million dollars in sports bets could be placed in March.

“It’s going to be a big number,” Boan said. “The baseline for Arizona (for any month) is somewhere between $400 and $500 million, so somewhere between $550 and $650 million is probably a good place to expect for March, especially with the Arizona men’s basketball team being as good as they are this year. If you are a sportsbook operator here, expect a lot of money this month.”

The University of Arizona is sending a team to both the men’s and women’s tournaments. The men’s team recorded a 31-win season, including Pac-12 regular and postseason titles by first-year head coach Tommy Lloyd, and was selected as the top seed (and No. 2 overall) in the South region on Selection Sunday. The women’s squad received a four seed as an at-large team in the Greensboro region.

Boan believes both teams are going to be revenue generators for sportsbooks across the Valley.

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“I think Tucson is kind of going to be the betting epicenter of the Southwest for the next few weeks,” he said. “I think both University of Arizona teams are definitely going to be a huge generator of revenue in March. I think both teams are going to make it into the second weekend (of the tournament), meaning they will generate more interest in the state, and thus, more revenue.”

The odds of the Arizona men’s team winning the national championship remained the same across multiple sportsbooks in Arizona, even with their performance in the Pac-12
Tournament, where they were crowned champions for the first time since 2018.

Entering the tournament, the nation’s top seed, Gonzaga, sits comfortably ahead at +300 odds on Arizona’s FanDuel and BetMGM sportsbooks, while at +350 for DraftKings. The Wildcats are receiving the second-highest odds to win it all, coming in at +600, +600 and +650, respectively.

The Lady Wildcats, who were bounced in their first game of the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament, come in at +3200 on FanDuel Sportsbook Arizona and +5000 on DraftKings Sportsbook Arizona. BetMGM Arizona currently does not have national championship odds for women’s college basketball.

One way sports betting could impact state handle and revenue numbers are with those who are just testing the waters of sports gambling. With promotions, eagerness and overall good vibes, sportsbooks are trying to get the general sports fan to wager on NCAA Tournament games.

“I think it’s gonna be there’s going to be a lot of first time betters,” Boan said. “A lot of people, even if they don’t do it online, maybe they go to a sportsbook or casino somewhere and put a couple bucks down on the games and maybe watch some basketball and have a good time.”

Promotions are key to getting people introduced to the intricate world of gambling. It is not uncommon to see betting sites offer hundreds of dollars in free bets to new users. In fact, only a small percentage of American sports bettors frequent their mobile and in-person sportsbooks to wager money.

“It’s a very small pool of people that actually are going to bet consistently,” he added. “So the house wants to get as many of those people in, figuring that a lot of them are probably just going to place one or two bets and never use their account again. We’re seeing a lot of those deals already.”

Just 15% of Americans bet on sports more than once per month, according to a January 2022 study done by Arizona State’s Global Sports Institute, Of that number, 68% are male, and 90% watch sports on broadcast television often. Over the past few months, sportsbook venues with bars, betting kiosks and walls of televisions, have been popping up all over Arizona.

Creativity comes into play during NCAA Tournament games. At the FanDuel attached to Footprint Center, “fans who invested $100 at 4-to-1 odds have enjoyed participating in a 3-point contest on the Suns floor,” Hoose said.

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Casino Del Sol in Tucson is one of those venues that expects to see large crowds on hand for March Madness games.

“It’s very exciting for us at Casino Del Sol to be able to provide an opportunity for guests to bet on March Madness games for the first time ever,” said John Collins, who is the director of SolSports, the official sportsbook of Casino Del Sol. “The energy and excitement has been great so far and it’s magnified during tournament play, so we are very excited to see what the first year brings.”

“The overall atmosphere of the room is fantastic during regular games, and it multiplies during a University of Arizona men’s basketball game, so we expect it to be a really exciting time at SolSports,” Collins added.

Having two teams from Tucson competing in the big dance should have a major impact on wagers at SolSports. Although the sportsbook will not be offering women’s NCAA basketball wagering until the Final Four, they expect to see a lot of action regardless. If the Wildcats can make a run similar to their national runner-up season in 2021, one can imagine the raucousness that will take place in Casino Del Sol’s sportsbook lounge.

The University of Arizona men’s team will play Wright State on Friday, March 18, at 4:37 p.m. MST. The women’s team plays UNLV Saturday at 7:00 p.m. MST.

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The Arizona Wildcats are receiving the second-highest odds to win it all in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Arizona’s FanDuel Sportsbook at +600.