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    March Madness Brackets Boost Tournament Viewership by 21%

    Press Release
    March 31, 2016

    Washington, DC – Americans who visit bracket sites spend 86 more minutes (21%) watching the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament than those who do not, according to new commissioned Nielsen research released today by the American Gaming Association (AGA). Engagement with bracket sites drives viewership most heavily in the early rounds of the tournament – before brackets start busting – creating higher levels of fan engagement even for less competitive games.

    Earlier this month, AGA estimated that 40 million Americans will wager $2 billion on more than 70 million brackets. Overall, $9.2 billion will be bet on March Madness this year, with 97 percent of such activity occurring illegally. Under current law, sports betting in the U.S. is largely banned outside of Nevada.

    “Greater engagement in March Madness – on which Americans bet billions of dollars – significantly increases viewership of the NCAA tournament,” said Geoff Freeman, AGA president and CEO. “Despite the current federal prohibition of sports betting, we would expect a similar trend to exist in all sports – the more invested, the more viewership, creating lucrative opportunities for advertisers and broadcasters alike.” 

    The research, based on actual behavior of viewers, shows that fans watch more of the NCAA men’s tournament when they participate in brackets. The study also found that:

    • Avid fans who use popular mobile apps to follow their brackets spent nearly 40 percent more time watching March Madness.
    • Fans who visited bracket sites watched nearly 20 percent more March Madness games than the non-bracket audience.
    • 33 percent more women who visit bracket sites tune into March Madness than women who do not visit bracket sites.

    According to recent research conducted by EY, if sports betting were to be legalized in every U.S. state, approximately 29 million new bettors would generate an additional $32 billion per year in wagering activity. 

    In a major shift last November following months of study and deliberation by AGA and its members, the casino gaming industry announced its intent to study the implications of current law and to build a coalition to determine if rational, legal alternatives exist. In the large and growing illegal sports betting market, consumer protections are non-existent and law enforcement lack tools to protect the integrity of games. AGA has launched a new website dedicated to this effort that serves as the hub of its campaign to educate and inform stakeholders and allies. The site includes up-to-date news, research and information on this dynamic issue.  

    Methodology: Nielsen’s analysis of NCAA bracket/fantasy sports participants and their viewership of the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament leveraged Nielsen’s TV/Digital Fusion technology, which uses Nielsen’s behavioral panels (Nielsen’s National TV Panel and Nielsen’s Online and Mobile Panels). Nielsen segmented out bracket/fantasy sports participants and then crossed that segment with TV viewership of the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Their viewership was then compared to non-bracket/fantasy sports participants and the general population.

    About AGA: The American Gaming Association is the premier national trade group representing the $240 billion U.S. casino industry, which supports 1.7 million jobs in 40 states. AGA members include commercial and tribal casino operators, suppliers and other entities affiliated with the gaming industry. It is the mission of the AGA to be the single most effective champion of the industry, relentlessly protecting against harmful and often misinformed public policies, and paving a path for growth, innovation and reinvestment.


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