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Place your bets: March Madness and the growth of sports gambling

March Madness is here, which means passion, school pride, and now, more than ever, a crazy amount of sports betting.

An estimated 47 million Americans will place bets on March Madness this year, according to the American Gaming Association, with a lot of it happening in Las Vegas, which is where correspondent Luke Burbank found Nard Lamar making some wagers of his own.

"I've done a few bets," Lamar said. "St. Louis is a pretty good bet and the Lakers."

Even in the midst of a pandemic, Lamar and others were lined up to play their hunches at the Circa Casino Sportsbook.

Burbank asked, "How often do you sports bet?"

"About five to seven days a week," he replied.

"How do you do usually?"

"Pretty good."

You could say sports betting itself is doing pretty good, too. "Take a look around these casinos, okay? They ain't getting any smaller," said Brent Musburger. If sports betting in the U.S. has a Pope, it's probably the legendary sportscaster.

Musburger is a lifelong sports gambler himself. He even popularized the term "March Madness" back when he was covering it for CBS. "I tell, especially youngsters, I tell 'em, 'You know, be careful. Because it's not as easy as you think it is, okay?'"

Burbank asked, "I mean, people may not realize this, but, you know, that office pool at work, that's effectively sports betting, right?"

"Absolutely," Musburger said. "Everybody, everybody in March fills out a bracket. You just gotta do it. People were always taking a chance with their brackets, okay? Everybody likes to take a chance."

In 2017 Musburger rolled the dice himself when he left his lucrative sportscasting job to work for his nephew's sports-gambling TV network VSiN, which broadcasts 24 hours a day from (you guessed it) the floor of a Las Vegas casino.

VSiN wants to be the CNBC of sports gambling, which they see as a growing market, thanks to a 2018 Supreme Court decision that made sports betting legal for any state that wants it.

After the Supreme Court ruling, a rush to cash in on sports betting

And why would a state want to do that? In Colorado, taxes from sports gambling are projected to generate millions in revenue for water projects.

"Anything helps," laughed Russ Sands, who is with the Colorado Water Conservation Board. "And we are really seeing, especially now in these times, that, you know, the budget is being stretched."

Sands said Colorado already has so-called "sin taxes" on things like alcohol and marijuana. so why not legal sports betting?

Burbank said, "You drive past a sports bar, the sports bar is full of people screaming, and in some ways that event, if some of those people have money down. that event is also helping you take care of the water in Colorado?"

"Absolutely," Sands replied. "Wherever that bar is sitting, it's probably sitting next to a stream. And that water needs to be protected. And if we can build better projects together, it makes Colorado stronger."

Other states have joined in, too. As of today, 20 states and Washington, D.C., have some form of legal sports betting up and running.

And what about the people who see betting on sports as immoral or tawdry? Musburger replied, "Listen when the country was founded, they took a chance. I mean, they came across the ocean. They didn't know what the hell was at the other end. It was founded by speculators. It was founded by guys who gambled with their family's life!"

Inspired, Burbank decided to try his luck as well, with some guidance from frequent sports bettor Nard Lamar. His pro tip for March madness? "If you got $2,000 on Baylor and $2,000 on Gonzaga, $2,000 on Baylor's gonna get you $7,000, I guarantee."

"Wow!" said Burbank. "Do you have $2,000 I can borrow?"

Our correspondent ended up at a lower price point (placing some $5 bets), and is being careful to temper his expectations, because of one final piece of advice from The Legend, Musburger, himself: "If you really need the money, stick with the stock market, okay? But if you've got expendable cash, and you want to enjoy yourself, then go ahead and bet sports. But if you think you're gonna be the guy who's gonna make this multi-million-dollar fortune, forget about it. It's not gonna happen." 



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