The first weekend of March Madness betting is in the books. There are still four rounds to go, including the Final Four in Minneapolis.

But how are New Jersey sportsbooks making out? The NJ sports betting field currently includes a field of 23 (10 retail and 13 mobile).

NJ Gambling Sites talked with FanDuel Sportsbook, PointsBet Sportsbook, BetStars NJ, and DraftKings Sportsbook, and so far, the companies are very happy with the way things are going.

Ron Shell, vice president of customers and insights at PointsBet NJ, said overall, “March Madness lived up to the hype.”

“In four days we turned over millions of dollars with thousands of unique customers and handle per game, only second to the Super Bowl.

“Bettors absolutely loved our Make it Rain promotions – receiving bonus bets for each game win or lose.”

PointsBet’s March Madness betting breakdown

PointsBet, based out of Australia, is still fairly new to the NJ online sports betting market. Keep in mind March Madness does not have the same following over there that it does here.

But it’s clear, based on the early numbers, NJ bettors are liking what the mobile online sports betting platform offers.

The second-round game between Maryland and LSU drew heavy interest in terms of handle ($90,000) and highest bet count.

The other two highest handles, to date, are:

  • Wofford vs. Kentucky: $85,000 
  • Florida vs. Michigan: $80,000

And the game that almost busted thousands of brackets, Duke vs. Central Florida, ended up having the second highest bet count.

But with all good things, comes a little bad.

The PointsBet team said the worst result came during Saturday’s Kentucky/Wofford second-round game. The spread went off at Kentucky -5.5. The Wildcats covered by a half point, 62-56, in the last five seconds of the game.

Big parlay hits at FanDuel Sportsbook

With so many games taking place over the weekend, parlays are a popular March Madness betting play.

One FanDuel Sportsbook customer at the Meadowlands Racetrack wagered $100 on eight spreads. The return: $17,600.

Here are the eight legs. And yes, there were some close calls:

  • St. Mary’s +4.5 (lost, 61-57)
  • Belmont +3 (lost, 79-77)
  • Yale +7.5 (lost, 79-74)
  • New Mexico State +5.5 (lost, 78-77)
  • Murray State +3.5 (won, 83-64)
  • UC  Irvine +4.5  (won, 70-64)
  • Liberty +6.5 (won, 80-76)
  • Ohio State +5.5 (won, 62-59)

But this is a small sampling of the four days of betting to open the 2019 NCAA Tournament.

Based on a statement from FanDuel Sportsbook NJ, the company is very happy with the way things are going.

“We had a great start to March Madness in New Jersey both online and at [our] retail sportsbook at the Meadowlands Racetrack.”

And Friday, when March Madness was truly at its maddest? Well, FanDuel said they had the “biggest Friday ever by bets and handle.”

“We had impressive crowds at the Meadowlands Racetrack over four days of basketball action and our online customers benefited from our Close Call Insurance on four exciting tournament games.”

DraftKings happy with March Madness betting debut

Those who stepped inside the DraftKings Sportsbook at Resorts on Thursday afternoon sampled March Madness betting excitement for the first time. Apparently, Atlantic City and March Madness go together like peas and carrots.

The Boston-based company did not provide a breakdown of retail and mobile wagering. But in terms of the most wagered games by money, here are the top five from Thursday:

  1. Saint Mary’s vs. Villanova
  2. Florida vs. Nevada
  3. Baylor vs. Syracuse
  4. Murray State vs. Marquette
  5. Yale vs. LSU

The St. Mary’s/Villanova game also claimed the top spot in terms of overall betting tickets. It should come as no surprise since the defending national champion Wildcats draw support from the nearby Philadelphia market.

Overall, Johnny Avello, director of sportsbook operations for DraftKings, is pleased with the early results.

“It was our first weekend of March Madness action ever and we saw robust and sustained participation throughout the weekend,” said Avello. “At Resorts, we’ve noticed we are getting 30 percent of bets at kiosks.”

Duke remains the March Madness betting favorite

The March Madness betting field is down to the final 16 teams, aka the Sweet 16. While Duke narrowly escaped elimination on Sunday night, they remain the favorite to win it all.

But like any other sport, bettors like shopping around for the best odds. But which NJ sportsbook has the best odds going on Duke to take home the title?

Here is a look at four:

  • BetStars NJ: +240
  • DraftKings Sportsbook: +300
  • FanDuel Sportsbook: +220
  • PointsBet Sportsbook: +320

Underdogs are part of March Madness

Of course, there are several teams still in the mix that bettors refer to as the underdog.

While the odds to win it all may not be as great when there were 64 teams in the mix, there is still some distance between Duke and remaining No. 3 seeds such as Purdue and Texas Tech along with the lone remaining No. 12 seed Oregon.

Like the favorite, the odds and teams vary based on the NJ sports betting platform.

At FanDuel Sportsbook NJ, for instance, Texas Tech opened at +3300 to win it all. They are now +2300. 

While No. 12 seeds have a reputation for upsetting the No. 5 seed in the first round, winning it all is another story. But Oregon has advanced with victories over No. 5 Wisconsin and No. 13 UC Irvine.

Up next for the Ducks is No. 1 Virginia, with the winner advancing to the Elite Eight. As of Tuesday afternoon, DraftKings has the spread listed at Oregon +8.5.

In terms of winning it all, those chances are much slimmer based on the futures odds of +10,000.

BetStars NJ boosting the underdogs

BetStars NJ customers are taking advantage of the odds boosts being offered throughout the NCAA Tournament. The formula is simple: get boosted odds on every underdog.

This included Murray State.

The BetStars team said more than 55 percent of bettors backed Murray State to beat Florida State. The No. 12 seed did upset No. 5 Marquette in the first round.

But the Cinderella story concluded Saturday against No. 4 Florida State, 90-62.

Villanova also took the court Saturday as an underdog. And it seems last year’s champs still have plenty of supporters among BetStars customers.

Eighty-five percent of the wagers for this one were on the Wildcats to win or cover the spread.

But this one was all about No. 3 Purdue, who won easily, 87-61.

“We’re happy with the engagement we’re seeing so far with our Home of the Underdog promotions,” said Matt Primeaux, senior vice president for strategy and operations at BetStars USA, in a statement.

“Based on the amount of underdog bets, our users have certainly been rooting for madness. As we enter the Sweet 16, we’re all hoping for some closer games and maybe a big upset or two.”

Final March Madness betting numbers

With the Sweet 16, Elite Eight, and Final Four still to come, it’s too early to judge how the first year of March Madness betting is going in the Garden State.

The first weekend of games is known for being a busier time in terms of betting. But there also is a bigger volume of games.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement will release the official handle and revenue figures next month, so we have to wait and see.

For now at least, it’s clear that the customers and bets are flowing in at a steady pace. Like a tournament bracket, the bets need to advance to the next round.

Bill Gelman

About

Bill Gelman is a veteran sports writer based just outside of Philadelphia and not too far from the Jersey Shore. Bill spends time in Atlantic City writing about casino openings and expansions, special events and world championship boxing at Boardwalk Hall. He is now adding NJ sports betting and online gambling to the mix.