Billions could be illegally wagered on March Madness

Legal gambling on the NCAA tournament runs into the tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars.

Illegal gambling is more — a lot more.

The American Gaming Association released a study on Super Bowl gambling, the other major holiday in the sports gambling world. The study showed Americans made $3.8 billion in illegal bets compared to about $100 million legal wagers on the Super Bowl. The association represents the U.S. casino industry.

Reports from media outlets suggest March Madness is no different.

ESPN reported that experts estimate anywhere between $2.6 billion to $26 billion is wagered illegally on the NCAA tournament in 2013.

American Gaming Association Director of Media Relations Chris Moyer said the association does not have estimates on illegal wagering on the NCAA tournament, but the expectation is the proportional difference is similar to that of the Super Bowl.

“We’re not really looking at the office pools, pretty innocuous stuff,” he said. “We’re looking at situations in which third parties profit — mainly bookies. You also have off-shore websites. That’s really where most of this is happening.”

The conversation of illegal sports gambling shifted in November when new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver wrote an op-ed in the New York Times promoting a federal law to let states decide on whether to allow sports gambling.

Silver wrote fans are seeking a safe and legal way to gamble. He pushed for strong regulations should gambling be further legalized.

Moyer said the American Gaming Association’s membership is looking at various options.

“We’re having conversations with our membership, and we’re trying to determine what the best thing is to do here,” he said. “It’s clear that people are betting whether it’s legal or not.”

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