Most people’s brackets have long busted, and that $10 you tossed into the pool could be headed into the hands of that Oklahoma grad or that long-time North Carolina supporter.
But if you’re like most people, the gambling action you had alive during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament motivated you to follow the games a lot more closely than had you not filled out a bracket.
This year’s, the four No. 1 regional seeds survived the March 17-20 opening weekend, but three lost during the Sweet Sixteen/Elite Eight games March 24-27. Oklahoma and Villanova, both No. 2 seeds in their regions, play Saturday night, followed by No. 1 seed North Carolina and No. 10 Syracuse.
Nielsen analyzed last year’s tournament, crossing bracket/fantasy sports participants with TV viewership. They found avid fans who use popular mobile apps to follow their brackets spent nearly 40 percent more time watching the tournament and fans who visited bracket sites watched nearly 20 percent more games than the non-bracket audience.
One study puts viewership at 86 minutes more for Americans who visit bracket web sites compared to those who do not. The American Gaming Association released results Thursday of a commissioned Nielsen research confirming what sports gambling proponents have been saying: Fans tune in more often if they have a financial stake in a game. Even if it’s that lousy late-nighter between a No. 3 and a No. 14 seed.
“Greater engagement in March Madness – on which Americans bet billions of dollars – significantly increases viewership of the NCAA tournament,” said Geoff Freeman, AGA president and CEO. “Despite the current federal prohibition of sports betting, we would expect a similar trend to exist in all sports – the more invested, the more viewership, creating lucrative opportunities for advertisers and broadcasters alike.”
The AGA is pushing for changes in sports gambling laws, saying not only betting pools, but illegal, offshore internet gambling sites contribute to an unregulated sports-betting industry. Only 3 percent of sports betting is conducted legally, the AGA says.
The AGA points out that those with brackets watch like crazy during the early rounds of the tournament, before their brackets start busting. And that having a bracket creates higher levels of fan engagement even for less competitive games.
The AGA, based in Washington, D.C., in November announced an intent to study the implications of current law and “to build a coalition to determine if rational, legal alternatives exist.”
The AGA’s sports betting site, SportsBettingInAmerica.com, encourages the nation’s leaders to “modernize the rules.”