Illinois March Madness Betting Key In $692 Million In “Lost Productivity”

Written By Dave Briggs on March 23, 2023
March Madness basketball

A recent study by a Chicago executive outplacement firm estimates this year’s March Madness tournament will lead to about $692 million in “lost productivity” in Illinois. And some believe the growth of Illinois sports betting is a main culprit.

Whether you believe the numbers — or you care — it’s fun to look at them.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. estimated that this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament will cost US employers up to $17.3 billion in lost productivity. That’s about $1 billion more than the  year ago. And it is the firm’s highest estimate for the tournament on record.

Lost productivity in Illinois during March Madness is about $110 per person

How did we get the Illinois numbers?

In 2022, it was estimated 158 million Americans were employed in some fashion. That means the national average for lost productivity during the tourney is about $109 per working person.

The latest employment figures for Illinois show some 6.2 million people are employed in the state or 4% of the national total. That would make Illinois’ share of the estimated lost productivity during March Madness about $692 million.

Keep in mind, all this amounts to about $110 in lost productivity per worker.

And, there’s no barometer about the positives in terms of employee well-being. Some suggest having a fun distraction during a mostly-grim month can actually boost morale and result in team building in some cases. Just think of an office bracket competition that’s just for fun and bragging rights.

“March Madness is a great way to connect teams, especially in the world of fully remote and hybrid work,” said Andrew Challenger, workplace expert and senior VP of global outplacement and business at Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“Creating events around March Madness, whether watching games or filling out brackets together with incentives for the winner, makes the workplace more exciting, for both in-person and remote teams.”

Sports betting in Illinois was up 39% in 2022

However, there’s little doubt legal sports betting is on the rise in Illinois.

For all of 2022, Illinois sports betting handle was nearly $9.8 billion. That was up 39% over total handle of just over $7 billion in the Prairie State in 2021.

Illinois recently posted its fourth straight billion-dollar handle month. And the most recent month in those figures is January.

So, we still have figures from February and March to come. February featured the Super Bowl, the nation’s biggest single sports betting event. And March has the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

And, March of 2022 was the first time Illinois surpassed $1 billion in betting handle, largely due to March Madness. Illinois sports bettors bet more than $286 million on the 2022 men’s and women’s tournaments, combined.

That means it’s entirely likely betting on this year’s tournaments in Illinois contributed strongly to the lost productivity figures.

AGA predicts March Madness betting will be up 51% this year

After all, the American Gaming Association predicted about 68 million Americans were likely to bet on the game, up 51% from 45 million in 2022.

An AGA survey found:

  • 31 million Americans planned to bet online, at a sportsbook or with a bookie.
  • 21.5 million planned to bet casually with friends.
  • 56 million planned to fill out a bracket.
  • Some $15.5 billion is expected to be bet on the tournaments, just under the $16 billion Americans bet on this year’s Super Bowl.

Given those numbers, it’s easy to see why gambling on March Madness in Illinois will contribute heavily to that $692 million in lost productivity.

Photo by Kyusung Gong / AP
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Dave Briggs

Dave Briggs is a managing editor and writer for Catena Media. His expertise is covering the gambling industry in North America with an emphasis on the casino, sports betting, horse racing and poker sectors. He is currently reporting on the gaming industries in Illinois and Canada.

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