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Three states and Washington D.C are racing against the clock to get sports betting ready for customers in time for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, otherwise known as March Madness. The three-week basketball tournament is one of the most popular betting events of the year and pour tens of millions in bets into the coffers of sportsbooks around the country.
The tease of fueling their early revenue numbers with the revenue generated by the annual tournament is causing Michigan, Illinois, Montana and the District of Columbia to hustle to open the doors to their sportsbooks by the first games on March 18th.
State officials and three sportsbooks at casinos in Detroit are working feverishly to get licenses approved and facilities finished in time for the start of the annual amateur tournament.
“Right now the only thing they’re waiting for us to approve the couple licenses still outstanding for some of their vendors and the internal control. We’ve been going back and forth with them making sure that the internal controls that they have in place are adequate enough to ensure the integrity of gaming and we’re really close,” said Michigan Gaming Control Board Executive Director Rick Kalm.
In addition to the three Detroit casinos, 24 tribal casinos in the state could also be ready by the first games in mid-March giving Michigan bettors numerous options by the opening tipoff to kick off the tournament.
Sports betting in Illinois has long been touted by Governor J.B. Pritzker as a method to reduce the state deficit and in a recent address to the state’s legislators, the Democrat told them that wagering would be ready in time for the NCAA’s Men’s Basketball Tournament.
The opening date posed by Gov. Pritzker was a surprise to some betting experts, but operators in the state backed up the claim with the announcement of granted licenses by the Illinois Gaming Board.
Although Illinois bettors won’t be able to bet on in-state schools, they’ll be free to place a wager on tournament teams at a handful of sportsbooks that should be ready by the first day of March Madness.
The state that will have the widest betting expansion for March Madness is Montana as over 140 lottery locations have betting licenses to offer wagering to their customers. As it stands, the Montana Lottery, who runs sports betting, hopes to open wagering by March 9th at licensed locations.
Montana will have kiosks available at the licensed locations with a maximum wager of $250 and bettors can bet through a mobile app with a bet limit of $1,000. The first 142 locations represent roughly 10 percent of the total number of lottery vendors that can offer sports betting in the state when working at full capacity.
Washington D.C. appears to be the one location that will not make the start of the tournament as red tape and administrative delays have slowed the implementation of sports betting to the district.
One of the big issues for Washington D.C. is the rollout of the mobile app through Intralot. Due to legal challenges and quirky rules about brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, the gaming company has been slow to fine-tune their software leaving bettors frustrated.
Company spokespersons have indicated that the app will be ready for the Washington Nationals’ Opening Day festivities on March 26th, which is the first day of the second weekend of the basketball tournament.
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