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Kevin Smith

High Expectations for March Madness Betting

13 March 2001

Champions, heroes, Cinderella stories and upsets will all be made this month thanks to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. If gamblers have a few things go their way, you can add millionaires to that list.

One of the biggest events for sportsbooks everywhere, March Madness, will officially kick off tonight with a play-in game in Dayton, Ohio, but the real action starts Thursday, and the sports betting industry is gearing up for the event.

A host of Internet sites are offering contest relating to the tournament, in addition to all the traditional bets for individual games, and one industry analyst feels this year's tournament could see a lot of action on the Internet.

Sebastian Sinclair, an interactive gaming expert from Christian Capital Advisors is predicting Internet sportsbooks will see about the same amount of money bet on the tournament that was bet on the Super Bowl.

"It is always a tough one," he said. "It is approximately the same size as the Super Bowl, and I think it will be in the range of $400-$500 million."

That amount is nearly double what was wagered on the Internet during last year's tournament, according to Sinclair.

Sinclair did say that the tournament has the potential to bring in a lot more revenue.

"I have to make one important caveat though," he said. "It could be a lot bigger than that though because while the Super Bowl attracts the casual bettor, March Madness attracts the big and serious bettor. Based upon my experience it should be roughly the same size as the Super Bowl. Given the dynamic of the serious bettors penetrating the Internet that number could be much larger."

The tournament could soon pass the Super Bowl as the biggest sporting event for Internet sportsbooks since the event attracts the big bettors, and according to Sinclair, the serious bettors seem to be flocking to the Internet.

"They are taking some of the parlays and the teasers and they think that they can win them," he said. "The vast majority of sports betting on the Internet are those bettors, the serious ones. They aren’t betting in Nevada anymore because they are shopping around for a better price."

And it isn’t just the traditional sportsbooks that are looking to gain a foothold on the Internet. A number of mainstream media sites--including The Sporting News, ESPN, and CNNSI just to name a few--are all hosting free contest with major prizes for users who can predict all the games right.

In addition to the mainstream sites, plenty of sports betting sites are getting into the mix as well with contests. is offering a $10 million prize to anyone who can guess every game correctly while, a sportsbook based in Antigua, is conducting the "Hoop Wants to be a Five Millionaire" contest in which it will award $5 million to anyone who can predict all the winners.

"What a thrilling way to get college basketball fans involved in the tournament," Simon Noble, executive director and co-founder of said. "We are right in the middle of the basketball frenzy."

The $5 million grand prize offered by Intertops is an increase from last year’s pot.

"Since we had such an incredible response to our $2 million contest last year--and no one won--we decided to up the ante this year to show our loyalty to our customers." is also offer some serious money, $1 million, but its contest calls for just predicting 60 of the 63 games correctly.

Fantasy Sports Inc. may have the most unique fold on the bracket challenge. Their site,, is conducting its 2001 College Fantasy Basketball Challenge which allows players the ability to trade online and earn points throughout the tournament. The patent-pending technology allows for users to win even if their early round teams were eliminated.

Fantasy Sports' game also has a grand prize of $1 million. Clive Kabatznik, CEO of SilverStar Holdings, Ltd., Fantasy Sports' parent company, said the key to its game is the technology.

"The feature is based on our patent-pending game engine which uses an escalating point scoring system that rewards later round victories with proportionally higher scores," he said. "Our game, therefore, will command loyalty and continued participation throughout the tournament as no one is eliminated in the early rounds."

Kabatznik said the technology could also be used in other sporting events where seeded teams or players play each other in a bracket-type format.

High Expectations for March Madness Betting is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith