‘Best Start Ever’? Sports Betting Sites Report Solid March Madness So Far

Losses by heavily-staked teams were good for some sportsbook operators, although it was not a total rout for bettors.

Last Updated: Mar 20, 2023 5:23 PM ET Read Time: 3 min
March Madness NCAAB
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March Madness has thus far been favorable for some U.S. sports betting sites, as popular futures and point-spread picks flamed out in the early rounds of the men’s college basketball tournament. 

BetMGM suggested Monday morning that things have been going pretty well for them. Among other developments, the online sportsbook operator noted that two of its three biggest liabilities to win the tournament were Duke and Kansas, both of which are now eliminated. 

The hot start for BetMGM could still give way to a painful end. The operator noted in its email that it still has a $500,000 bet outstanding on Houston to win the tournament at +1,000 odds, which would pay $5 million. 

For now, though, BetMGM is flying high. 

“This has been the best start ever to the NCAA Tournament in terms of action and results for the book,” Seamus Magee, sports trader at BetMGM, said in a statement. “Duke, Kansas, and Purdue losing were all good outcomes for BetMGM in the futures market. The public did also win big with Duke smashing Oral Roberts and Kentucky beating Providence in the Round of 64.”

A solid start

March Madness is one of the busiest times of the year for sportsbooks. The American Gaming Association recently forecast that 68 million adults in the U.S. planned to wager around $15.5 billion on the games. 

However, the AGA’s research also found that Kentucky was the most popular choice to win the national title, followed by Texas A&M. Both teams have been eliminated.

Rush Street Interactive Inc. sportsbooks BetRivers and PlaySugarHouse reported on Monday that four out of five of their most wagered-on plays by the percentage of money staked in the first round were winners, including Duke -6 against Oral Roberts. However, in the second round, four out of five were losers, including Duke -3 versus Tennessee. 

"Bettors on Unders, on money line favorites and on Fairleigh Dickinson scored big at the sportsbooks BetRivers and PlaySugarHouse in the first two rounds of the NCAA Men’s Tournament," the bookmakers noted in a press release.

Casual bettors of totals probably found themselves in tough over the weekend as well. That is because the Under hit more often than the usually more popular Over, with the scores of 32 of the first 48 games finishing lower than the total, according to ESPN.  

"I'd call it a solid weekend," John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook, told the outlet. 

Caesars Sportsbook reported on March 15 the betting trends for the 30 opening-round games that were set at that point. When the dust settled, the side that had drawn the most money as of Monday covered the spread 15 times and failed to do so 15 times, making for a split decision. 

However, there were some discrepancies within those betting splits. San Diego State to cover was the point spread drawing the most money at Caesars for the Round of 64 games as of last Monday, which panned out for Aztec backers as the team beat Charleston by six points. That was offset somewhat by plenty of bettors picking Charleston to win the game outright.

“There is more money on San Diego State to cover than on both sides of every Round of 64 spread except for Furman vs. Virginia,” Caesars noted. “Yet, there has been interest in Charleston (+185) to win outright, as the Cougars have gotten the most moneyline bets of any Round of 64 team.”

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