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College basketball takes centre stage every March with March Madness. It’s one of the most exciting playoff formats in sports; 68 teams enter and only one survives to be crowned the champion. The unpredictable nature of the games has paved the way for the record-setting betting. So when did the hysteria of the brackets and the betting begin? 


Bracket Beginnings

Brackets in the NCAA Tournament didn’t become popular until the ‘80s for a couple of reasons. First of all, there weren’t enough good teams to bet on, as the country was top-heavy. That made for predictable tournaments where the favourites would win regularly, as expected. For example, UCLA ran the college-basketball game until the mid-1970s when legendary coach John Wooden retired. Between 1964 and 1975, they won the tournament in all but two seasons.

The first bracket pool came from a Staten Island bar called Jody’s Club Forest. In 1977, 88 people filled in their brackets, tossing in $10 per entry. By 2006, there would be over 150,000 people entering that pool with a prize-money collection of $1.5 million.


Growth in Betting

While brackets draw in casual fans, betting is the big business. According to the American Gaming Association, betting on the NCAA Tournament in Las Vegas is now in the neighborhood of $300 million per year. The action has nearly tripled since 2004. Last year, Las Vegas saw nearly $300 million in bets compared to the $122.3 million back in 2004. Between 2004 and 2011, there was between $122.3 million and $191.4 million in action. Since 2012, there has been at least $200 million in action every year, and in 2015, the $300 million mark was surpassed for the first time; the action reached $300.2 million. Betting on the tournament and filling out brackets for the 2017 tournament is expected to approach record heights once again this season.


Advancement of In-Game, Mobile Betting

March Madness betting continues to reach new heights because of ease of access. There was a time when betting had to be done through a bookie or in Las Vegas, both of which are hard to access. Nowadays, with online betting available, it’s easy to get online, open an account and get started.

As technology improves, sportsbooks can offer a wider variety of betting options. In earlier times, people placed bets before games or during halftime. Now, with the invention of live in-game betting, bettors get in the action at any point. As live betting continues to grow each year, so does mobile betting. Not only can people bet at any point in the game, they can bet from any location that has Wi-Fi.