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

This is the first time Arizonans have had the chance to legally bet on March Madness basketball. The men’s tournament is one of the most bet-on sporting events in the country. (Photo by Wesley Johnson/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Sportsbooks across the state expect to see hyper-spikes in handle and revenue during the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournaments. The betting should be even more heated with two University of Arizona teams seeking national titles.

Sports betting became legal in the state Sept. 9, so this is the first opportunity for Arizonans to bet on the NCAA Men’s Division I championship – one of the most-wagered-on sporting events in the country. More than 17% of American adults plan to wager on this year’s tournament, spending $3.1 billion, 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 regional manager for FanDuel.

New Jersey, which has the largest sports betting handle and revenue of any state since June 2018, produced a handle of more than $859 million in last year’s March Madness. So far, December 2021 is the top-performing month for Arizona, bringing in a handle, or amount of money wagered by bettors, just less than $500 million. Arizona’s March Madness numbers may not reach New Jersey’s, but Arizona still could set a monthly high for the state.

Christopher Boan, a sports betting insider and lead writer for BetArizona.com, predicted that more than half a billion dollars in sports bets could be placed in March.

“It’s going to be a big number,” he 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 Arizona Wildcats are given the second-highest odds to win it all in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Arizona’s FanDuel Sportsbook at +600. (Photo by Susan Wong/Cronkite News)

The UArizona men’s team recorded a 31-win season, including Pac-12 regular and postseason titles by first-year head coach Tommy Lloyd. It was selected the top seed in the South region and No. 2 overall.

The Wildcat women’s team received a four seed as an at-large team in the regional round.

“I think Tucson is kind of going to be the betting epicenter of the Southwest for the next few weeks,” Boan 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 UArizona men’s team winning the national championship is the same across multiple sportsbooks in Arizona.

Entering March Madness, the nation’s top seed, Gonzaga, sits comfortably ahead at +300 odds on Arizona’s FanDuel and BetMGM sportsbooks, and at +350 on DraftKings. The Wildcats have the second-highest odds to win it all: at +600, +600 and +650, respectively.

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The Wildcat women, who were bounced in their first game of the Pac-12 Tournament, come in at +3200 on FanDuel Sportsbook Arizona and +5000 on DraftKings Sportsbook Arizona. BetMGM Arizona doesn’t have national championship odds for women’s college basketball.

Arizonans who’re just testing the waters of sports gambling also could affect state handle and revenue numbers. With promotions, eagerness and overall good vibes, sportsbooks are trying to get the general sports fan to wager on NCAA Tournament games.

Boan expects “a lot of first-time betters.”

“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,” he said.

Promotions are key to introducing people to the intricate world of gambling. Betting sites routinely offer hundreds of dollars in free bets to new gamblers. 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,” Boan said. “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.”

Fifteen percent of Americans bet on sports more than once a month, according to a January 2022 study done by Arizona State’s Global Sports Institute. Of those, 68% are male, and 90% say they 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 across Arizona.

Gambling in Arizona was legalized in 2021. This graphic shows each state’s laws on gambling. (Graphic courtesy of the American Gaming Association)

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.

Casino Del Sol in Tucson expects to see large crowds 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.”

Although SolSports isn’t taking bets on the women’s tournament until the Final Four, Collins expect to see a lot of action regardless. If the Wildcats can make a run similar to their national runner-up season in 2021, the sportsbook lounge should be rocking.

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

Let the madness ensue.

Ryan Schwager rye-en schway-grrr (he/him/his)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Ryan Schwager expects to graduate in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism, a minor in digital audiences and a business certificate. He is working for the Phoenix sports bureau.

Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Wesley Johnson expects to graduate in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Johnson, who has interned as a digital editor and social media manager at Arizona PBS, is working for the Phoenix sports bureau.

Susan Wong soo-zin wah-ong (she/her/hers)
Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Susan Wong expects to graduate in spring 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Wong, who is a digital media intern with Sun Devil Athletics, is working for the Phoenix sports bureau.

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