Will this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament turn into the first legal $1 billion wagering event in US history? That’s the prediction being made by analysts at PlayUSA.com. The emphasis in their prediction, however, is on the legal part of the equation.

The company’s bold prediction comes as more and more American states open their gaming markets to legal sports betting. This year marks the first year that a large number of US states have offered their citizens the opportunity to legally wager on college basketball. Of course that doesn’t mean that Americans weren’t betting on basketball, they just weren’t doing it legally. That means that no one really knows how much money was bet on illegal sites, though that number was likely to have been astronomical. (And it’s still possible that plenty of people are betting on black market sites.)

PlayUSA also acknowledges that estimating how much money will be put in the regulated betting market will be tough since last year’s tournament was cancelled. In 2019, only seven US states offered legal sports betting, so comparisons are difficult to make.

In a recent statement to the press, Eric Ramsey, analyst for PlayUSA.com commented on the situation saying, “he 2021 NCAA Tournament will be the most widely bet-on sporting event in U.S. history. The popularity of the NCAA Tournament combined with such a high number of games typically makes March Madness the largest sports betting holiday each year in terms of handle, and there is no reason to suspect that won’t be the case this year. But the number of legal sports betting markets has more than tripled since 2019 and we are still in the midst of a pandemic that could slow retail sportsbooks. Those reasons alone make this year difficult to predict.”

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament starts on March 18 and is expected to wrap up by April 8.

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