Over 2.5 Million Texans Will Try To Place Sports Bets During March Madness

Written By Tyler Andrews on March 14, 2023 - Last Updated on March 16, 2023
Texans blocked from placing legal bets

A quarter of Texas adults will try to place March Madness 2023 bets, and many will fail.

Due to the legal standing of online sports betting in Texas, all of those bets will be placed either illegally or will be blocked by geofencing services such as GeoComply. 

Data compiled by the American Gaming Association and GeoComply paint a picture of Texans attempting to use legal sportsbooks from neighboring states. This comes most often via blocked attempts by Texans to access other states’ legal sports betting apps, but, in the case of Texans near the border, it also entails quick trips into Louisiana, Arkansas and New Mexico to place mobile bets.

AGA estimates 25% of US adults will bet on March Madness

Through sportsbooks, bracket pools and casual bets, the AGA estimates about 68 million American adults – one-quarter of the country’s adult population – will place bets on March Madness this year. The AGA breaks down these betting avenues into the following percentages:

  • 46% (31 million people) will bet using traditional online or retail sports books, both legal and offshore or with a bookie;
  • 32% (21.5 million people) will bet casually with friends;
  • 83% (56.3 million people) will participate in a bracket pool.

The AGA predicts the total estimated value of those bets to be $15.5 billion. This time last year, the AGA made a similar projection, estimating 45 million Americans would wager $3.1 billion on the tournament.

This data came from a national survey of Americans across all states, including those where sports betting is outlawed. 

While the data addresses legal and illegal betting markets, it does not estimate how many bets will be placed during the March Madness tournament or the average amount of bets placed per bettor. 

Over 2.5 million Texans likely to place bets on March Madness

With an adult population of 22.3 million, we can use AGA data to extrapolate the number of betting Texans – 25% of all Texas adults or 5.6 million adults – and the types of bets they’ll likely place:

  • 46% (2.6 million people) will attempt to use some form of sportsbook;
  • 32% (1.8 million people) will bet casually with friends;
  • 83% (4.5 million people) will participate in a bracket pool. 

Since no forms of sports betting are legal in the state, the 2.6 million Texans who might try to use a sportsbook during March Madness will have two options

  • Bet online in Texas at illegal offshore sites or by trying to use another state’s legal sportsbook app;
  • Travel to a legal state to place their bets online or in person. 

Due to the ambiguity of the offshore market, PlayTexas isn’t prepared to offer a projection on how many Texans will bet illegally on March Madness. The Texas Sports Betting Alliance, however, previously used a study by Eilers & Krejcik Gaming that indicated Texans place around two million offshore bets a year on sports, totaling an estimated $8.7 billion.

The Dallas Morning News interrogated that claim to find that such a number was ultimately unreliable. Adam Krejcik, head of Sports Betting at EKG, confirmed the tenuous nature of the estimate, stating that it should be taken with “the largest possible grain of salt,” and indicating that, at best, it represented a “low confidence” measure of an outer boundary of the offshore market. 

Louisiana will see the majority of Texas’ legal sports betting action

Setting aside the illegal market, we can address the second option–the legal market. Among the Texans who plan to follow the legal wagering route, Louisiana likely will receive the lion’s share of their attempted bets. 

Data provided to PlayTexas by GeoComply shows that during the last NFL season, Texans attempted to place 2.85 million NFL bets on the legal sportsbook apps of other states. All were blocked by GeoComply.

Predictably, Louisiana sportsbook apps received the most blocked bets, 37% of the total.

A percentage of those jilted Texans in Houston, Dallas and other border regions of the state got in their cars and made a trip or two over the border to Louisiana to place their bets in gas stations and truck stops.

GeoComply maps trace the trajectory of the same player attempting to place a bet in Texas and then traveling across a border to place it legally.

Online sports betting legislation could knock down the geofence

For Texas sports bettors, living on the outside of the geofence has become commonplace. 

Those who care about betting legally and have the means and opportunity to do so can travel to Louisiana, Arkansas, New Mexico or further afield. But, in such a sprawling state, the percentage of the population that can make that trip is small. GeoComply found that of the 2.85 million blocked bets during the last NFL season, only 3,900 (0.13%) led to a bettor getting in their car and driving east to Louisiana or Arkansas to place the bet legally. 

Joint legislation filed by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst and Rep. Jeff Leach with the aid of the Texas Sports Betting Alliance would change that. 

Senate Joint Resolution 39/Senate Bill 715 and House Joint Resolution 102/House Bill 1942 work together to amend the state constitution to legalize online sports betting. The House and Senate bills currently sit in their respective State Affairs Committees where they await public hearings. 

Should these bills advance out of committee, they would need a two-thirds majority vote in both houses of the legislature to advance to the November 2023 ballot election in the form of a public referendum. If that happens, a PlayTexas survey indicates Texans would vote favorably for legal online sports betting.

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Tyler Andrews

Tyler is the Managing Editor for PlayTexas, covering sports, sports law and gambling for the Lone Star State. He has also covered similar topics for a number of Catena Media's regional sites including NCSharp, PlayCA, PlayFL, PlayOhio, and PlayMA. Tyler is a Texas resident and currently specializes in covering gambling legislation and news in emerging US markets.

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