Americans will bet more than $9.2 billion on March Madness office pools this year, up from $9 billion last year. That’s more than twice the $4.2 billion wagered on the Super Bowl.
The average American completes nearly two brackets and bets an average of $29 on each one. But it’s largely an exercise in futility: The odds of picking a perfect NCAA bracket are less than one in 9.2 quintillion, according to DePaul University mathematics professor Jeff Bergen.
The American Gaming Association predicts that Americans will complete more than 70 million brackets in 2016.
There’s a lot of non-gambling money involved in the tournament as well. The cheapest price for a ticket to a March Madness game is at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena during the round of 32, when the average ticket cost is $112. During the Final Four games at NRG Stadium in Houston, prices spike to an average of $1,052, according to TiqIQ.
Final Four host Houston will see an economic impact of $300 million, according to a WalletHub report, with the average visitor spending $2,100 while there. The advertising rights for the tournament are worth $1.1 billion.
Nearly 40 percent of office workers say they are distracted at work by major sporting events, according to a Robert Half survey. The staffing firm attributed that distraction to the ability of today’s workers to stream games at any time. Companies are projected to lose nearly $2 billion in worker productivity during the tournament.
If you do manage to win some money in a March Madness betting pool, keep in mind that the winnings are taxable. See IRS publication 525 for all the painful details.