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Big bets on March Madness brackets

March 20, 2015

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The NCAA college men’s basketball tournament got underway on Thursday. Some of you may have already had your brackets blown. And, those victories by Butler and University of Alabama-Birmingham have cost some people some serious money.

The American Gaming Association, which represents the U.S. casino industry, estimates that more than $2 billion will be bet on March Madness brackets. That works out to $29 for each of the 70 million Americans who have filled out a bracket for the men’s tournament.

About $240 million will be spent at Nevada sports books, which are legal. The rest will be spread around office pools and places we’re not supposed to know about.

Meanwhile, Marketplace reported Thursday that a major drop in productivity takes place across the country while the tournament is underway.

One estimate, by Challenger, Gray and Christmas, pegs the value of the lost output at $1.9 billion. It used to be that office workers had to take breaks to listen to games or sneak away to watch them on TV.

Now, mobile apps allow them to tune in the games while they’re at their desks, or view them on computer screens. Their heads might be in the games, as a result, and not focused on their jobs.

Here are some more numbers from an AGA poll of 1,000 men and women, aged 18 and over.

  • The average person will fill out nearly two brackets. (We assume that’s because some people treat brackets like bingo cards, and juggle a variety of possibilities.)
  • Half of all the people who are watching the tournament have filled out a bracket at least once in their lifetime.
  • More people will fill out a bracket than voted for President Obama (66 million votes) or Mitt Romney (61 million votes) in the last presidential election.

So whether you have Butler, or Michigan State, or Kansas to go all the way, know that you have plenty of company, win or lose.


  • Micheline Maynard

    Micheline is a contributing columnist at the Washington Post concentrating on business and culture. She has written about flooding in Detroit, tainted water in Benton Harbor, nationwide shortages of restaurant staff, and vaccine hesitancy.

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