Tarnished Twenty- The FindLaw Sports Law Blog

March Madness 2016: $92B in Bracket Betting

March Madness tips off today -- do you know where your bracket is? Did you go all chalk? Pick the right 12/5 upset? And, more importantly, did you get your money in the right pool?

A press release from the American Gaming Association estimates Americans will wager some $9.2 billion on March Madness this year, most of that illegally. The AGA estimates only $262 of that will be wagered at Nevada sports books. So is Janice from accounting about to get busted for illegal gambling?

Picking the President and Presidential Picks

In total, Americans are expected to fill out over 70 million brackets this year, more than ballots cast for any single president in history. (In the last election, President Barack Obama garnered 65 million votes while Mitt Romney got 61 million.) That means fewer people will vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump than on whether Michigan State makes another Final Four.

This shouldn't be all that surprising, since Obama has been unveiling his own bracket each year of his presidency, the latest on Tuesday night. The president picked Kansas to win it all, with North Carolina, Texas A&M, and, yes, Michigan State to round out the Final Four. Will Obama be placing his own bets on the tourney? As he said after the Super Bowl when Stephen Colbert informed him that gambling was illegal, "I'm the president. I hereby pardon myself."

The Law and the Midwest Regional

Just to be clear, that presidential pardon probably doesn't apply to you. And strictly speaking, your office March Madness pool is illegal. That said, law enforcement usually doesn't bother with small stakes wagering between friends, so you may want to keep the entries and antes to a minimum.

The AGA estimates the average person fills out nearly two brackets, and wagers about $29 on each. And as long as Janice from accounting isn't accepting hundreds of brackets (or setting up large pools online), she should stay off the state gaming commission's radar. So have some (legal) fun this March Madness, and please, for god's sake, anyone but the Spartans.

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