By Skip Charles in Vegas

The NCAA tournament tipped off Tuesday night, and it’s already shaping up to be a historic one — for sports betting, at least.

Legal sports betting in the U.S. for the tournament could reach — or perhaps surpass — $3 billion, according to at least two studies. A third group suggested it could reach $10 billion.

The Big Dance often draws more betting activity than the Super Bowl, per PlayUSA. But this year, it could ring up three times the amount of Super Bowl bets — and break a betting record for U.S. sporting events.

Because of the tournament’s popularity and condensed schedule, it’s always a top sports betting event, analyst Eric Ramsey said.

This year, sports betting is legal in several more U.S. states than it was last year — including record-breaking New York — and most states have little, if any, restrictions on college sports betting.

“This year will easily shatter the record for the most bet-on event set last year,” Ramsey said.

About 45 million people will likely participate, according to the American Gaming Association’s conducted with Morning Consult. They’ll place about 76% of bets outside bracket challenges — a significant uptick from last year.

The gambling industry was always considered taboo in college sports. Now, it’s infiltrated NCAA sports in more ways than one.

In addition to fans betting more on college sports, sports betting operators have partnered with high-profile athletic departments and athletes. Gambling watchdogs have stepped in, too.

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