Half of March Madness Game Venues Are in States Without Sports Betting Markets

  • 72% of states have legal sports betting, yet half of March Madness venues don't
  • Over $6bn will be wagered during the tournament, per early estimates
  • The Final Four and championship will be in Texas, where sports betting is illegal
  • Several states hosting March Madness games are discussing changes to laws
Basketball with a March Madness logo
Half of the venues chosen to host March Madness games are in states that don’t allow sports betting. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Missing the train

Several states are set to miss out on the sports betting benefits that come during the fast-approaching March Madness.

over $6bn will be wagered on this year’s tournament

Seven of the 14 venues chosen to host March Madness games are in states that do not allow locals to wager on sports. That’s quite the blow, considering that early estimates project over $6bn will be wagered on this year’s tournament, a near 100% increase on the $3.1bn estimate in the build-up to the 2022 event.

Could this be a frame-shift moment for local lawmakers that get to witness firsthand the effects of an absent sports betting market, or could it further the divide between lawmakers? The answer will soon be known.

March Madness meets sports betting

March Madness does not just happen in one venue. It is spread all across the United States and then consolidates for the Final Four and championship game.

These are the locations where March Madness 2023 games will be held:

States with legal sports betting 

  • Dayton, OH
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Albany, NY
  • Columbus, OH
  • Denver, CO
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • New York, NY

States without legal sports betting

  • Birmingham, AL
  • Orland, FL
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Greensboro, NC
  • Kansas City, MO
  • Louisville, KY
  • Houston, TX

Both Final Four games and the national championship will be held in Houston, Texas, where sports betting is illegal. If there was a legal sports betting system in place, the Lone Star state would likely recoup millions of dollars in proceeds from taxable sportsbook revenue.

A similar situation played out in California in 2022 when the Los Angeles Rams met the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI in Inglewood. Pre-game estimates suggested that $7bn would be wagered on that championship bout.

California managed to push two pro-sports betting amendments known as Proposition 26 and Proposition 27 to the November 2022 ballot a little over half a year after Super Bowl LVI. However, both measures failed resoundingly and led to sports betting companies taking nearly half a billion dollars in losses from their lobbying efforts.

Legislative changes on the horizon

Sports betting is legal in 72% (36) of all states, which makes it even more noticeable that half of the upcoming March Madness hosts won’t be servicing their guests with sports betting options. That does not mean, though, that there is no movement in any of those states.

Missouri, for example, is busy seeking change. A coalition of professional sports team owners and executives and sportsbook officials are busy pushing lawmakers to amend the laws and create a sports betting legal market. 

Governor Greg Abbott said that he would not be opposed to hearing plans

Texas is also showing a stronger likelihood to listen to sports betting amendments than ever before. Governor Greg Abbott said that he would not be opposed to hearing plans for legislative changes, although he does not outright support sports betting, while former Governor Rick Perry recently joined a sports betting movement called the Texas Sports Betting Alliance. 

Two bills were introduced to the Texas legislature recently, but Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has long said that he will kill any attempts to legalize sports betting.

On February 27, Kentucky also introduced a bill that would legalize retail and online sports betting. Representative Michael Meredith, who filed HB 551, said that it would let the state reap the benefits of an illegal gambling market worth an estimated $1bn annually.

March Madness runs from March 14 to April 3. Games will be played at nine locations in the first six days before condensing to five venues over the final two weeks.