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Gaming association: 'March Madness' to generate $10 billion in illegal wagers

Patrick Varine
| Tuesday, March 13, 2018, 2:21 p.m.
The American Gaming Association estimates Americans will bet more than $10 billion illegally on the NCAA tournament, which kicks off tonight, Tuesday, March 13, 2018.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
The American Gaming Association estimates Americans will bet more than $10 billion illegally on the NCAA tournament, which kicks off tonight, Tuesday, March 13, 2018.

Legally speaking, many of your coworkers, your neighbors and possibly even your grandmother are in line to become petty criminals this weekend.

The American Gaming Association estimates that Americans will wager more than $10 billion on the 2018 NCAA men's basketball tournament — better known as “March Madness” — and only 3 percent will be bet legally through Nevada sports books.

The AGA said in a news release that Americans illegally wager about $150 billion per year on sports.

In roughly two-thirds of U.S. states, it is illegal to participate in “sports pools,” which include filling out an NCAA bracket where money is involved. But AGA officials said that will not stop about 24 million people from doing it.

AGA CEO Geoff Freeman said federal intervention is necessary to regulate that amount of money changing hands.

“Our current sports betting laws are so out of touch with reality that we're turning tens of millions of Americans into criminals for the simple act of enjoying college basketball,” Freeman said. “The failed federal ban on sports betting has created an illegal, unregulated sports betting market that offers zero consumer protections and generates zero revenue for state and tribal governments.”

Even legal betting is setting records: the Las Vegas Sun reports that the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Association pegged March 2017 as the city's third busiest month ever, with 3.78 million people traveling to “Sin City” as the NCAA tournament was under way.

The “First Four” tournament games kick off tonight with LIU-Brooklyn playing Radford for a No. 16 seed at 6:40 p.m., and St. Bonaventure playing UCLA for a No. 11 seed at 9:10 p.m.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862, pvarine@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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