The biggest event in college basketball has once again rolled around, with March Madness Selection Sunday happening this Sunday (17 March). 

With UConn, Houston and Purdue the betting favourites heading into this year’s March Madness, the college basketball tournament has become an extremely valuable and popular event for betting operators. 

Callum Broxton, Head of US Operations at Checkd Group, outlines some of the key themes and betting trends for one of US sports’ biggest events of the year. 

1. A record-breaking North American handle

The Super Bowl is the marquee event on the US sporting schedule, and the 2023 shattered previous wagering records. However, March Madness typically trumps the NFL’s set piece game in terms of sports betting revenue, and this year will be no exception.

Mobile betting is now live in North Carolina, the ninth-largest state by population and an area with a keen interest in college hoops. The addition of NC, along with the trend that is seeing gaming become more mainstream, will ensure a record-breaking tournament for the major operators. 

Notorious sports bettor Mattress Mack is doing a good enough job of raising the handle on his own, with a $1m bet on his hometown Houston Cougars!    

2. New operators to take significant market share

In 2023, the major operators capitalised on their respective brand strength and marketing prowess to take the lion’s share of the revenue. 

Ahead of this year’s NCAA tournament, however, there are more sharks in the tank: we have seen high-profile and aggressive entries to the marketplace from ESPN and Fanatics, along with the ramped-up rollout of bet365’s offering. 

The likes of BetMGM and FanDuel could see their slice of the pie get smaller, but this will likely be offset by the increase in the size of the pie. 

3. Uptick in customer acquisition through bonusing

In a nascent sports betting landscape, where recreational bettors are still navigating a dynamic ecosystem, there’s no shortage of bonuses as a means of customer acquisition. 

The fight to bring aboard new users on board will be crucial for the major operators during the tentpole basketball event, with North Carolina’s timely arrival giving us the opportunity to see the direct correlation between a state going live and acquiring new users whose interest will be piqued by the NCAA action. 

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4. Greater adoption of research tools or recreational bettors

The US gaming industry may have fledgling status, but it’s clear that North American recreational bettors are discerning. 

Research shows US sports bettors devote a significant amount of time to researching their picks, and we certainly see the increasing demand for reliable betting information from the Smart Picks tool on the FlashPicks app.

In addition to empirical data resources, there’s also greater interest in the world of sports betting influencers on platforms such as YouTube and Twitch. As such, influencer marketing forms a key part of our acquisition and retention strategy.

5. More sports betting data incorporated into the broadcast

Within US sports broadcasts, we are seeing a continual increase in the use of sports betting data, and prominent air time for free to play games such as Fox Super 6. 

From NFL to NWSL soccer broadcasts, the moneyline is being used as part of the narrative to help the viewer understand the game in question. March Madness broadcaster CBS will undoubtedly use sports betting data in its commentary and analysis, via its SportsLine brand.

Suffice to say, with many colleges signing multi year sports betting partnerships, and with gaming becoming an intrinsic part of sports broadcasts, we’ve come a long way from the NCAA banning sports commercials during games in the 2022 tournament. 

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