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March Madness bets outpace 2016 spending, study finds

March Madness bets outpace 2016 spending, study finds
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March Madness could prove to be more popular than the 2016 presidential election, a new study suggests.

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The college basketball tournament is projected to draw $9.2 billion in sports bets in 2016, according to the American Gaming Association. This would be a 2 percent increase from last year and will likely outpace campaign spending by all of the top presidential candidates combined.

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClose the avenues of foreign meddling Pelosi planned on retiring until Trump won election: report Pence autobiography coming from Simon & Schuster MORE has spent more than $97 million on the 2016 election, according to campaign finance documents filed last week with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Rival Bernie SandersBernie SandersHillicon Valley: Amazon wins union election — says 'our employees made the choice' On The Money: Biden .5T budget proposes major hike in social programs | GOP bashes border, policing provisions Overnight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists MORE trails, with more than $81 million in campaign spending. 

On the Republican side, Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' GOP lawmakers block Biden assistance to Palestinians Cruz on Boehner: 'I wear with pride his drunken, bloviated scorn' MORE has spent $41 million, Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHillicon Valley: Amazon wins union election — says 'our employees made the choice' Overnight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists The growing threat of China's lawfare MORE has spent nearly $33 million, Donald TrumpDonald TrumpHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' Man arrested for allegedly threatening to stab undercover Asian officer in NYC Trump says GOP will take White House in 2024 in prepared speech MORE has spent nearly $24 million, and John Kasich has spent $7 million.

Campaign spending will pick up during the general election but is unlikely to top the amount of money spent on sports bets during March Madness.

By comparison, President Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney combined to spend just over $2 billion — including money from super-PACS and other outside groups — in the 2012 presidential election, according to OpenSecrets.

What's more, the study predicts the number of March Madness brackets filled out by fans will exceed the number of votes cast for any particular presidential candidate in November.

"The total number of brackets Americans will complete — more than 70 million this year — will likely surpass the number of ballots voters cast for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or any other single presidential candidate in the November election,” the American Gaming Association wrote in a statement Monday.

President Obama won 69 million votes in 2008, according to the study, the most votes any candidate has ever received.

’Election
Infographic by The American Gaming Association

However, only $262 million of these March Madness bets will be made legally, according to the American Gaming Association, which represents the casino industry.

The American Gaming Association argues the illegal gambling market — which it says grew to nearly $150 billion in 2015 — should be reined in by federal regulators.

“Americans’ passion for betting fuels the unmatched popularity of March Madness,” said Geoff Freeman, president of the American Gaming Association, in a statement.

“Betting increasingly drives sports fans — and even casual observers — to invest in the tournament, offering further evidence that sports betting is the new national pastime,” he added. "It’s time for a fresh, rational approach to sports betting that reflects this reality.”