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Las Vegas Is Still The Epicenter Of March Madness As US Betting Expands

The first weekend of March Madness has always been popular in Las Vegas. The city has changed, and so has watching and wagering on the games.

Las Vegas March Madness betting
Marc Meltzer Avatar
6 mins read

Being in Las Vegas for the first weekend of March Madness is unlike any other experience.

Last year the Las Vegas Sun summed it up best when they said the first weekend of March Madness is like the Super Bowl Sunday and New Year’s Eve combined into one.”

While visitors in Las Vegas are having a great time, the casino operators have found a way to turn the experience into a new and growing revenue stream. Gambling revenue isn’t enough for casino corporations that are always looking for a new way to generate additional revenue.

“Watch parties” and mobile sports betting allow sports fans and bettors the ability to enjoy the games away from the sportsbook. Meanwhile, some casino operators are charging a price to sit and watch the games in the sportsbook.

Today, visitors in Las Vegas for the first weekend of March Madness now have numerous viewing options that include free seats in the sportsbooks, paid reserve seats, free general admission watch parties, and all-inclusive watch parties.

Frankly, with mobile apps, sports bettors in Las Vegas can watch and wager on games from a poolside cabana or anywhere else within state lines.

From free to hundreds per day to watch March Madness

The sportsbook is still the epicenter for excitement during the first weekend of March Madness. However, it’s not the only place to watch the games thanks to technology and enterprising casino executives.

It’s still free to watch games during the first weekend of March Madness in most sportsbooks. General admission seating means that they’re first-come, first-served. The line for a seat forms as early as 5 a.m. to get a seat at a sportsbook on the Vegas Strip. Casinos visited mostly by locals tend to fill up a little later.

Some sportsbooks offer reserved seating. This year Caesars Palace is charging anywhere from $125 to $1,200 (plus tax and fees) to sit inside and around their massive sportsbook. Reserving seats is popular as many seats have sold out in advance.

Not everyone wants to sit in the same seat in a sportsbook all day to watch games during the first weekend of March Madness. Watch parties continue to grow in popularity. Many bars, restaurants, and ballrooms in Las Vegas casinos offer March Madness watch parties. Depending on the party, there could be food and beverage included in the price.

While most paid parties include a seat for all paid customers, not all do. It’s important to confirm that when booking a seat in a party.

Vegas offers the best of all worlds

Like everything, Las Vegas casinos have something to offer everyone. Not everyone visiting Las Vegas for March Madness is the same. There are plenty that will wake up early to get a free seat in a sportsbook.

Then again, there are many who just want to sit where they can watch and wager on the games. Standing in a line waiting to watch games isn’t for everyone. Reserved seats in a sportsbook and party have become more popular options.

The bottom line for casino operators is everything and The D in downtown Las Vegas has a formula that works well for their customers. Derek Stevens, owner of The D, tells PlayUSA that “we love providing a fun atmosphere for sports fans to cheer on their favorite teams all year long. The great thing about the D Las Vegas is that we have many options for March Madness.”

He continues “The Vue Bar provides secondary audio while the world famous LONGBAR plays primary audio during March Madness. The Detroit Ballroom holds the main party at the D with all games televised, short sportsbook lines, as well as Blackjack and Dice inside the party.”

The casino has a small 12-seat sportsbook so the other options work for plenty of visitors in downtown Las Vegas. Stevens is a big sports fan who wagers on the games like his customers. The combination has made The D one of the most popular options in downtown Las Vegas.

Every casino operator is different. Reserved seating in the sportsbook works for Caesars Palace. That doesn’t work for all casinos. The combination of free and paid March Madness viewing works for casinos like The D and The Mirage.

The evolution of March Madness in Las Vegas

The popularity of the first weekend of March Madness in Las Vegas has grown on a similar pace as it has everywhere. As the following of March Madness brackets has grown, so has the demand for gambling on the individual games.

The 48 college basketball games played during the first weekend of March Madness makes for a lot of action. Sportsbooks have seemingly always been crowded. There are urban legends of bettors paying homeless people to sleep in the sportsbook so they could have a seat when the first games begin at 9 am.

The trend of arriving early for a seat in the sportsbook continues. Guests in Las Vegas will arrive at sportsbooks well before sunrise to ensure they have a seat in the most popular sportsbooks. Sportsbooks that close after the last game of the night see March Madness bettors lining up outside of the sportsbook waiting for the lights to go on.

There’s an orderly Black Friday sale rush for seats at some casinos on the Vegas Strip. Obviously, casino operators love the excitement this brings. However, corporations don’t make money just by people having fun.

Everything changed in Las Vegas when MGM Grand Inc. purchased Mirage Resorts in 2000. Corporations now dominate Las Vegas casino ownership. Here are some of the public casino companies operating in Las Vegas:

  • Boyd Gaming
  • Caesars Entertainment
  • MGM Resorts
  • Penn National Gaming
  • Red Rock Resorts (AKA Station Casinos)
  • Las Vegas Sands
  • Wynn Resorts

When it comes to March Madness every casino operator–independent or corporation–have their own way to generate revenue.

March Madness viewing options outside of Las Vegas

According to the American Gaming Association, Americans will wager $8.5 billion on March Madness this year. Seven new states outside of Nevada will take individual sports bets on the NCAA basketball tournament this year thanks to the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018.

Legal sports betting outside of Nevada is new and most retail sportsbooks are just looking forward to hosting their first March Madness. Not every city will be the great destination to watch and wager on March Madness that Las Vegas is.

Every state has different sports betting regulations and customer preferences, so there won’t be a one size fits all view of March Madness. This will be a year for sportsbook operators to feel out the customers and see what the demand for March Madness is.

New Jersey sports betting in casinos is still relatively new. They’re are offering a traditional sportsbook experience for their first March Madness. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see overflowing crowds in the small sportsbooks this year. That could change next year when operators know what to expect and offer new viewing options.

Rivers casino in Pennsylvania isn’t wasting time offering a March Madness watch party. They have a complimentary party at their events center. Rivers Casino are also offering paid reserved seats for those that don’t want to miss out on the action if they can’t arrive early.

The popularity of March Madness will continue to grow as more states continue to legalize sports betting. The first weekend of March Madness in 2020 could be different in Las Vegas and every state with legal sports betting.

Marc Meltzer Avatar
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Marc grew up on the mean streets of the South Bronx. He's the rare combination of Yankees and Jets fan which explains his often contrarian point of view. Marc is a freelance writer and social media consultant. Writing about steak, booze, gambling and Las Vegas is a tough job but somebody has to do it.

View all posts by Marc Meltzer

Marc grew up on the mean streets of the South Bronx. He's the rare combination of Yankees and Jets fan which explains his often contrarian point of view. Marc is a freelance writer and social media consultant. Writing about steak, booze, gambling and Las Vegas is a tough job but somebody has to do it.

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