March Madness Hits In New York But Aftermath Adds To Wider Sports Betting Debate

March Madness Hits In New York
Published by NYSB Staff
Last Updated: 25. Apr 2024.

It may be a few weeks since the end of March Madness with the annual NCAA Tournament marking a stellar month for some of the best New York betting sites, but in its wake, there are wider rumblings about the nature of legal sports betting.

In March, New York’s nine licensed sportsbooks recorded the fifth-highest month for handle since betting was legalized in early 2021. That figure of $1.85 billion for the month was swelled by a weekly handle of $465,974,701 for the seven days to the final game between Connecticut and Purdue on April 7.

It was the biggest week for dollars wagered on sports in New York since the conclusion of March Madness in 2023 when the UConn Huskies were also victorious. But with betting scandals again dominating the headlines, notably in the MLB and the pro and college basketball leagues, calls for tougher rules on sports betting are growing.

A Slew Of Sports Betting Scandals Lead To Calls For Change

The latest crop of controversies involving sports betting are more layered than simply involving players wagering on the outcome of games.

The recent lifetime ban handed to NBA star Jontay Porter allegedly involves associates of the Toronto Raptors forward placing parlays against his team and multi-legged prop bets potentially based on private information known by those close to the player.

Making further global headlines, the interpreter of Shohei Ohtani has been charged with stealing millions from the LA Dodgers pitcher and designated hitter. Ippei Mizuhara is accused of impersonating the MLB star to place bets and deposit winnings into accounts he controlled. 

For his part, Ohtani has been cleared of suspicion. However, as sports betting has not been legalized in California, wider questions about betting across state lines have been raised.

Elsewhere, a review remains underway into reports of unusual betting activity on a men’s college basketball game. In a statement, Temple University said it was reviewing the March 7 game between its Owls team and the University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers. 

The investigation into potential match-fixing concerns a late surge in the points spread betting line in favor of UAB seemingly without any wider known injury or team news.

Calls For The Rules Around Sports Betting To Change

In part influenced by those recent sports betting controversies hitting the news, there are calls for leagues to extend bans on wagering to individuals with clear ties to players and teams such as personal assistants and club staff.

Also, in late March, the NCAA president Charlie Baker encouraged states in which gambling is legal to ban prop bets on college sports games. 

In a statement published on X, Baker said “Sports betting issues are on the rise across the country with prop bets continuing to threaten the integrity of competition and leading to student-athletes and professional athletes getting harassed.”

Prop bets are of particular concern because the outcome is not directly linked to the result of a game itself. The result of such wagers is often dependent on the performance of individual competitors such as the first player to score. That can leave participants exposed to outside influences on how they perform.

Baker’s call led to shares in Flutter, owner of the FanDuel sportsbook, falling. Share prices for  DraftKings and MGM Resorts International also fell, demonstrating that pressure for further regulation can directly impact the trading performance of publicly listed gambling companies.

Where Next For Sports Betting In Light Of Continued Concerns?

The legal sports betting industry in the US remains an evolving one. It is, after all, only just coming up to six years since the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). That move in May 2018 enabled states to authorize sports betting.

Fundamentally, the gambling industry’s preferred option ahead of regulatory reform will be enhanced self-monitoring. Moves to stave off additional rules imposed by legislation have been a feature of more mature markets around the world such as the UK. With company valuations at stake, the biggest NCAAB betting operators have little choice but to demonstrably do something.

As such, seven of the largest US online betting operators have announced the launch of the Responsible Online Gaming Association (ROGA). The body will share information about customers who display problematic gambling behaviors and fund research and education initiatives nationwide.

Whatever the future direction, legal sports betting is certainly here to stay. Too much investment is at stake with significant money flows into the biggest US sports leagues and huge gambling tax revenues now being collected by states. They’re simply already too big to be compromised.

Take March Madness 2024 as a timely example of just that. For the four weeks of the tournament, the combined Gross Gaming Revenue for top New York sportsbooks (that is all dollars staked on all sporting events) amounted to over $142.5 million. 

Taxed at a rate of 51%, that’s more than $72.7 million that have gone into state coffers. Sports gambling reform may be likely - particularly with prop bets in the short term - but don’t expect it to hit the bottom line in too big a way any time soon.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Let’s stay connected. Never miss a good news and betting offers in New York.

return to top