Legal March Madness Betting

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, better known as March Madness is one of the biggest events in sports betting every year. Legal March Madness betting brings in an estimated $10 billion wagered on the tournament year in and year out and with the one-and-done structure of the games, many underdog bettors cash in big during the tournament. In 2021, legal sports betting on March Madness will be bigger than ever before due to the lack of a tournament in 2020. There are betting lines for each game, for how far in the tournament a given team will place, and for filling out the perfect bracket. The March Madness tournament is the gift that keeps on giving for college basketball bettors. The perfect bracket in particular is a very popular wager that has never been captured. In the past, a winning perfect bracket would win a billion dollars from Warren Buffet. The odds of hitting the perfect bracket are estimated to be 1 in over 9 quintillions.

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Is It Legal To Bet On March Madness?

There are many options for fans looking to legally bet on the NCAA tournament. Las Vegas was the popular go-to March Madness betting destination, as the city was the focal point for sports gambling for decades. Now, there are around two dozen states offering legal March Madness odds. Unfortunately, each state has its own laws about the legality of gambling on college sports. Some states, like New York, have a prohibition against betting on in-state college teams, while others, like Oregon, enforce a blanket ban on college sports betting by their mobile sportsbooks. For those who don’t want to contend with all the bureaucratic red tape, online sportsbooks offer a great alternative. These overseas books are legal for all gamblers that meet minimum age requirements – just be sure to stick with major, licensed operators.

States With Legal March Madness Betting

Most states that have legal sports betting in their legislation offer betting lines for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. March Madness betting is a very popular event and is available at most regulated sportsbooks in the US. Some states have specific rules against betting on collegiate events that are happening within the state, but the betting odds for the March Madness tournament are still very much allowed.

  • Illinois
  • Colorado
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • Delaware
  • Arkansas
  • Rhode Island
  • West Virginia
  • Pennsylvania
  • New Hampshire
  • Mississippi
  • New Mexico
  • Iowa
  • Tennessee
  • Indiana
  • Oregon
  • Montana
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Delaware
  • Rhode Island

The states that are bolded prevent sportsbooks from offering betting lines for local college teams. Under the current regulations, players cannot bet on local teams no matter where they are playing AND they cannot bet on any match occurring within state lines – no matter the teams. New Jersey, who will be hosting March Madness in 2025, is petitioning to have a loophole that would allow New Jersey players to bet on March Madness.

Are March Madness Brackets Legal?

There is no law that prohibits March Madness brackets so sports bettors are legally able to participate in brackets or office pools without the risk of legal persecution. While social gambling is viewed as a negative in most legislations, no one has ever been arrested for participating in March Madness brackets. March Madness brackets are a major part of the yearly tournament and sports bettors participate in a number of ways. Popular websites offer bracket challenges with grand prizes and some sites even offer free bracket entries as well. Almost as traditional to the tournament as the games itself, legal March Madness brackets are some of the biggest ways to play to win big every year.

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March Madness Selection Criteria

The full March Madness bracket is revealed on CBS’s annual Selection Sunday show, which begins on Sunday, March 15 at 6 p.m. EST. Every Division I conference championship winner (32 total) earns an automatic bid to the tournament, while the other 36 at-large participants are selected by a 10-member committee comprised of athletic directors and conference commissioners from 10 different conferences. This committee is also responsible for seeding the bracket, designating regions, and determining matchups. There is a deal of mystery surrounding the process, which occurs behind closed doors, but we do know that the committee looks at a wide variety of factors when selecting at-large teams and seeding. Ranked by estimated importance, the primary factors for selection are:

  • Strength of record (win-loss record adjusted for strength of schedule)
  • Computer metrics and rankings
  • Subjective committee analysis (the “eye test”)
  • Record in true road games
  • Overall strength of schedule
  • Nonconference strength of schedule
  • Extenuating circumstances that might affect results (i.e., a suspension or injury to a star player)

The goal of the committee is to get the best 36 teams into the field, regardless of which conference they play in or how big their national brand is. In recent years, the committee has also attempted to remove certain criteria that many perceived as unfair, including valuing end-of-season games more than games at the beginning of the year and showing favoritism toward teams with a weak strength of schedule and a good overall record. The only real concrete restriction remaining is that tournament teams must have a record above .500.

Tournament Structure

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament structure is simple enough to understand. A total of 68 teams will battle it out over the course of 67 total games in a single-elimination style event. All the games are played within 19 days. Once a team loses, they are eliminated and the team that beat them moves on to the next round. This will continue until there are only two teams left, battling it out for the title. This is a major betting attraction at legal sports betting sites due to the one and done nature leading to many upsets. Millions of Americans wager on the March Madness tournament each year, giving many opportunities for huge wins.

NCAA Tournament Futures Bets – COVID-19 And The NCAA Tournament

One of the most shocking developments of the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak was the NCAA’s decision to cancel March Madness in 2020. After initially deciding to play the games normally but without fans, the NCAA quickly announced that it would be canceling the entire tournament as other major sports organizations did the same. Nevertheless, the 2020-2021 season is almost here, bringing with it the lost potential of the last season. Many players and teams were cut short of achieving great things last season, and have certainly harbored over that during the offseason. There will be a lot to prove in this upcoming season, which will officially begin November 25. Officials are currently discussing the idea of hosting the entire tournament within a bubble in the city of Indianapolis.

Legal March Madness Wager Types

Before you overwhelm yourself and worry just about brackets, you should also understand your wagering options for legal March Madness betting. The single-elimination tournament is known for the Cinderella story of a team who went further than anticipated, the top dog who gets booted too early, and the streaking team who can’t seem to lose. Furthermore, all of these can be gambled upon – it is just a matter of which style of betting you will participate in.

Betting On The Point Spread

Every game has a spread, which is the expected result for the difference in points at the end of the game. The favorite will have a minus symbol (-) before the number, while the underdog will have a plus symbol (+). Think of this as a starting point for the favorite or a boost to the underdog. Take this example:

Duke – 3
Tennessee +3

This signals that Duke is projected to win by three points according to oddsmakers and must win by 4 to cover the spread. Additionally, Tennessee is signaled to lose by three points and must win the game or lose by 1 or 2 points only. If the game ended as a three-point victory for Duke then this would be considered a “push”. In that case, all bets would be void and your wager would be returned.

Taking Action On The Moneyline

The most straight forward way to wager would be to bet on the moneyline. Moneyline betting is for sports bettors who are confident in a team winning the game but do not want to risk the bet by taking action on the number of points they will win by. Reading betting lines for March Madness moneyline betting is simple. The team with the lower number associated with their odds will be the favored team, while the team with the higher number will be the longshot. The odds also indicate the payout for the given wagers. For example, online sportsbooks show -150 for Gonzaga and +125 for Ohio State. Wagering on Gonzaga would need a bet of $150 to win $100 in profit, while those taking the longshot odds would only wager $100 to win $125 in profit.

Total Points Betting Options

Many times for basketball, the spreads can be difficult to determine because of last-second points. Likewise, game-winning shots can change the result in the last second. The speed of the game is another option you have when looking to legally bet on the NCAA Tournament by betting on the total points scored. Some basketball teams like to slow the pace and play every possession to the extent of the shot clock while others like to get a shot off as quick as possible. These styles of play make it easier to win money betting and determine trends in total points scored. For example, the University of Virginia has been known for slowing the pace down and holding teams to their lowest point production. In their games, the over/under may be a lower number than you see across the betting line board but it is up to you to determine the total points scored.

March Madness Betting Trends

#1 Seed Betting Trends

With the NCAA Men’s Basketball, its time to take a look at some interesting history surrounding the number one seed. For starters, sports bettors who are itching to capitalize on a possible upset from the #16 seed should realize their odds are extremely low. Throughout the entire history of March Madness, only one time has a number one seed lost in the first round. That was in 2018 when the UMBC Retrievers shocked the world and took a 74-54 victory over the top seeded Virginia Cavaliers. The top seeds are currently 135-1 against the bottom seeds in the tournament. The number one seed also wins at least two games 86% of the time, meaning you can rely on the top seed at least advancing to the Final Four. The final tidbit sports bettors should be aware of is that the number one seed tends to cover the spread as long as its less than 20 points. The number one seeds are 8-2 in their last 10 games against the 16 seeds whenever the spread is under 20 points.

The 8 Vs. 9 Matchup

With March Madness incoming, its time to take a look at some betting trends surrounding the tournament. Looking at the middle of the standings, the eight and nine seeds are practically split over the last 30 plus years of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The eight vs nine games are 70-66 since 1985. An interesting point to look at is that whenever the eighth seed wins, they have a 19.1% win-rate (13-55) in the next round. However, whenever the nine seeds advance, they only win 9.7% of the time (7-65). This is because they play the 1-seed (looking at you Virginia) but the eight and nine seeds have also covered the spread 59.1% of the time over the last 11 tournaments.

Betting On The 11-Seeds

For sports bettors looking to cash in on longshot odds in hopes of an underdog, it is wise to note the recent successes of the #11 seeds. Since 2011, the #11 seeds have gone 20-20 against the #6 seeds in the tournament. This gives them an unprecedented 50% upset record. The all-time record of #11 seeds is 52-88, a 37.1%-win rate. In 2017, USC, Rhode Island and Xavier all managed the #11 vs #6 upset and Xavier even advanced to the Elite Eight. In 2019, both Loyola-Chicago and Syracuse won multiple games in the tournament as well. With the one and done structure of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, upsets are always bound to happen.

How Many Upsets Happen Each March Madness?

If you are looking to capitalize on some longshot upsets during March Madness, it’s good to look at the tournaments upset averages. When it comes to betting on the bracket, keep in mind that an annual average of 12.7 upsets happen each year during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The fewest upsets that occurred in March Madness was four in 2007 and the most being 19 in 2014.

Upsets Per Round In The Men’s Basketball Tournament

  • Round of 64 – 6.1 upsets
  • Round of 32 – 3.6 upsets
  • Sweet 16 – 1.7 upsets
  • Elite Eight – 0.5 upsets
  • Finals Four – 0.2 upsets

By this data, if you are betting on an upset to occur in the NCAA Tournament, it is better to aim earlier in the tournament.

The Effects Of Travel During The NCAA Tournament

An interesting thing sports bettors should note when looking to bet the over during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is how well teams fare when playing close to home. Teams that play closer to home end to play better offensively. Both underdog and the favorites that play closer to home are more likely to cover the spread according to MyBookie.

NCAA Tournament Futures Bets

Betting on the NCAA Tournament is done best when cashing in on futures bets. Sports betting fans can find long odds on all the major teams before the tournament, giving ample time to lean in on the odds before the tournament begins. With early betting, players will be able to see the highest return should an underdog win the whole thing. Teams’ odds will surely shorten as the tournament progresses, so the best time to place action is well before the tournament begins. March Madness has a one-and-done structure which lends itself for constant upsets throughout. This is why futures betting on underdogs is the best way to play.

  • Odds To Win 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament
  • Gonzaga +250
  • Baylor +300
  • Michigan +300
  • Illinois +1300
  • Ohio State +1500
  • Villanova +1800
  • Iowa +1800
  • Houston +1800
  • Alabama +2000
  • Florida State +2000
  • West Virginia +2500
  • Kansas +2500
  • Creighton +3000
  • Texas +3300
  • Virginia +3300
  • Wisconsin +4000
  • Arkansas +4500
  • Texas Tech +5000
  • Oklahoma +5000
  • Tennessee +5500
  • Connecticut +5000
  • North Carolina +5500
  • Duke +5500
  • Michigan State +6600
  • USC +6600
  • Loyola Chicago +6600
  • Colorado +7500
  • Kentucky +7500
  • Louisville +8000
  • Virginia Tech +10000
  • Oregon +10000
  • San Diego State +10000
  • Florida +10000

Where To Bet On March Madness

Arkansas
The state of Arkansas voted to allow sports betting in November 2018 through a mid-term amendment. Since then, two sportsbook licenses have been issued—both in Jefferson County. If you want to place a March Madness bet with a state-licensed operator in Arkansas, your two options are the Oaklawn and Southland casinos. State law doesn’t cover mobile or online sports gambling, but online books are available and legal for everyone in the region.

New Jersey
There are 12 sportsbooks in New Jersey with the majority of them being focused around Atlantic City. Whether you are on the boardwalk or further from the water, there are many betting options provided for the tournament. Away from AC is Monmouth Park which was the first New Jersey sportsbook to open. There is also the ability to enter into any of the 11 online sportsbooks that are offered by the New Jersey casinos, the most popular being the DraftKings and FanDuel Sportsbooks, who both offer sign-up bonuses. These have some restrictions, as you must be located within New Jersey state lines for you to place a wager. Also, per state law, anytime a New Jersey team plays a game, there will be no betting lines offered on that game.

Nevada
Considered the Mecca of gambling in the country, there are dozens upon dozens of options for betting on March Madness here. Check out the Westgate which offers some of the best betting lines out there and even has a separate window just for high rollers. There are many other options such as the Station Casinos who are hosts to seven different sportsbooks. Nearly all of the operators in Nevada have an online platform but will require you to be within state lines to place a bet. Any odds you are looking for can be found here as they will allow you to take action on nearly any aspect of the game and provide some of the best sportsbook lounges in the world.

Mississippi
With the most sportsbook in the state behind New Jersey and Nevada, Mississippi boasts gambling all throughout their state. Whether you are on the Gulf near Biloxi, along the Mississippi River near Tunica or in the middle of the state near Pear River, there is always a place looking to take your action. Playing the odds at these casinos allow for a wonderful experience as they all have sportsbook lounges that you can enjoy watching the tournament games as well as placing bets. The state does allow for mobile betting but you are required to be on the casino grounds when placing your bet. The Beau Rivage and Gold Strike were the first two open sportsbooks in the state but Mississippi has nearly two dozen sportsbooks to choose from.

Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has over a dozen options when it comes to playing the odds on March Madness. The NCAA Tournament is designed to be thrilling and keeping you entertained throughout and the sportsbooks in PA will do just this as well. There has been a discussion about opening a mobile platform before the NCAA Tournament but it seems unlikely this will be in operation in time. Check out the Hollywood Casino or Parx Casino who seem to be leading the pack in Pennsylvania. Philadelphia is becoming a haven for sportsbooks but look into Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh as well.

Delaware
You may not know this but Delaware has had legal sports betting for longer than the majority of states in the country. They used to offer a parlay wagering style that never took off but their regulations stayed put in the state lawbook. March Madness betting in Delaware is available in three different locations: Dover Downs, Harrington Raceway, or Delaware Park. College restrictions apply in this state as well so any Delaware team that makes the tournament will not be on an odds board in the three sportsbooks. There is no mobile platform operated by the state so anyone who lives south of Harrington and Milford would need to take the trip up to Kent County. Meanwhile, those in the Wilmington area have the option of staying in Delaware to bet on the tournament or taking the trip east into Atlantic City for the ability to enjoy a sportsbook lounge.

Rhode Island
The options for Rhode Island aren’t as numerous as the other states; however, betting on March Madness in Rhode Island is just as fun and legal. The Twin River Casinos are the only two sportsbooks that are in operating in the state. One is in Lincoln while the other is located in Tiverton. Gamblers who are under 21 are given a luxury here as the Rhode Island betting age is only set at 18. Be aware that they have passed similar rules to New Jersey, where you can not bet on a local college team, even if the game is played outside of the state. No mobile betting options exist but any distance to one of these casinos is never far when you live in Rhode Island.

West Virginia
One of the most laid back states when it comes to legal sports betting is West Virginia. There are no restrictions on college sports betting and they even offer a mobile betting platform. You must be within state lines to submit any action; moreover, you can visit any of the racetracks or casinos that offer sports betting on the NCAA Tournament. Hollywood Casino at Charles Town is likely the most popular book in town but FanDuel Sportsbook at The Greenbrier has been making headlines. FanDuel accepts many deposit and withdrawal methods and even has betting lines on next years tournament already. Like we said, there is no shortage when it comes to betting options in West Virginia.

New Mexico
New Mexico is an interesting situation because they have not technically legalized sports betting in the state, but one casino still offers it. The Santa Ana Star, located just outside of Albuquerque, believed they had the right to offer this gaming style according to their compact with the state – even better, the state never fought back. This is the only casino that offers bets on March Madness but thankfully is centrally located in New Mexico. The sportsbook lounge in Santa Ana Star will provide a comfortable atmosphere for watching the games as well as answer any questions you may have about the venue or sports betting in general.

Legal March Madness Betting FAQs

Do Offshore Sportsbook Offer Any Bonuses?

Yes. Every site has its own bonuses and promotions for new and returning members. Most offer a welcoming bonus where they will match anywhere from 50-100% of your first deposit while others have reward programs where you can move the betting lines or have every deposit matched. Spend some time reviewing each licensed offshore sportsbook’s offers as one of them is bound to stand out as the best for your circumstances.

Are There Mobile Options For Betting On The Tournament?

As the March Madness Tournament is one of the biggest sports betting events of the year, there are definitely betting lines available for the major college basketball tournament. The best odds for the NCAA Men and Women Basketball Tournament are at online and mobile sportsbooks. You will be able to wager for every stage of the tournament including the Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final 4, and the ultimate championship game. As these games are done in a one-and-done system, making mobile bets on the March Madness Tournament is a great way to cash in on underdog bets and cinderella stories throughout the March Madness Tournament.

What Is Live In-Play Betting?

Live in-play betting was considered for extreme gamblers but now is much more commonplace in the legal sports betting world we live in today. This style of betting allows you to play the odds after the game has started. Betting lines and odds changes drastically so you must be quick with your choices but this allows you to stay even more focused on a game regardless of the outcome.

How Can I Watch March Madness?

Those that bet on March Madness games will want to watch how their wagers play out. There are a few different avenues that bettors can go about this. Every single game will be broadcast by either CBS, TBS, truTV, or TNT. If you have a cable package but don’t have access to a TV you can always use the site or app known as March Madness Live. However, if you don’t have access to cable at all, there are several other ways to stream the games. The most popular services to handle that would be Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV, and of course fuboTV.