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Got a hunch which sporting event is the most bet on every year?

If you think Super Bowl, well, you're close, but you are wrong.

The most-bet-on event starts in earnest today, with the long-awaited return of March Madness. (Yes, there were four play-in games Thursday night, but the true draw — the bracket that has launched $1 billion-plus in bets through the years — starts today.)

In our pre-COVID sports watching days, the American Gaming Association estimated $6.8 billion wagered on the Super Bowl and a stunning $8.5 billion on the NCAA basketball tournament.

How big is that? Well, the 2019 Kentucky Derby had $250-plus million wagers, and the largest fight ever — Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather — had a little more than $100 million wagered.

Now, to be fair, the World Cup dwarfs all comers in this category. It has the expanded reach of March Madness and a global appeal unlike any other event, Super Bowl included. According to betting site lineups.com, "In 2018 it was reported that over the course of the event 3.572 billion people viewed the 64 matches. According to FIFA, these viewers were also throwing down big money, with an estimated $136 billion dollars wagered in the entire tournament and $7.2 billion on the final match."

So there's that.

Still, it's a surreal return for March Madness, especially this version considering the limited crowds at various isolated arenas in and around Indianapolis. The excitement is palpable, but the energy will be lacking.

The same could be said about gambling interests, because there will be far fewer office pools because, well, there are far fewer of us actually in offices anymore.

MONEY IN MADNESS

There are now six online betting platforms that are licensed partners with the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation.

March Madness, the annual NCAA men’s basketball tournament, starts in earnest today. Every year it’s the single sporting event that generates the most wagers in American sports.

Here are some of the special sign-up deals — some are exclusive to new users, some are for all players; almost all of the rewards are in free on-site credit rather than cash — that the six betting sites in Tennessee are offering related to the tournament:

Action247.com: Initial deposit match up to $100 and daily tournament contests.

BetMGM.com: Bet $10 on Tennessee (or any team), get $160 in free bets no matter what.

DraftKings.com: Bet $4 on any underdog for a chance to win $256, which is 64-to-1 odds in tribute to the 64 teams in the tournament.

FanDuel.com: Offering Tennesseans an exclusive $50 risk-free bet.

TwinSpires.com: Up to a $200 bonus for new users.

WilliamHill.com: Get a risk-free bet up to $2,021.

Source: Various sites

For folks involved in the legalized online sports gambling community, that will make the days ahead and through the rest of March Madness like a traveling circus of parlays, in-games line changes and special offerings.

It will only add to the historic start for the state's online partners Tennessee Action247.com, BetMGM, DraftKings and FanDuel. The numbers in January continued the strong start for Tennessee gambling operators as the four sites handled $211.3 million in bets, made a combined $21.8 million in revenue and paid the state almost $5 million in taxes.

Now, with wall-to-wall basketball through the weekend, March appears poised to add to the record-setting start for an online-only operation, which is expanding this week.

National online betting vendors William Hill Sportsbook and TwinSpires, the Churchill Downs-owned online betting platform, are now live in the state.

And why not? There's more than enough to go around considering that there has been more than half a billion dollars wagered online in Tennessee through the first three months.

Half a billion.

Sure, the odds of picking all the games right in the tournament are more than 1 in 9.2 quintillion. And if you are wondering, a quintillion is a billion billions.

And while the magic of March may be missing fans and the familiar faces of Duke and Kentucky, there is always a chance you could win big, too.

And taking a chance to offer that chance is proving to be a big winner every month for the state of Tennessee.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com.

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