The first weekend of March Madness is one of the best weekends of the year in Las Vegas for a sports fan. If you’ve graduated from college recently, it’s probably the very best weekend of the year in Las Vegas. In addition to watching and wagering on 12 hours of basketball games each day from Thursday, March 16th to Sunday, March 19th, the event falls during Spring Break. This year the NCAA college basketball tournament also coincides with St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Yeah, there’s a lot going on and Las Vegas will be one big party. (For historical purposes, we also wrote about March Madness last year at TravelZork.)
Wagering during the first weekend of March Madness is similar to what sports books will see during the Super Bowl. However, the Super Bowl is just one game with lots of larger wagers. The first weekend of March Madness is made up of 4 days, 48 college basketball games, and mostly smaller wagers from younger bettors. In its entirety, March Madness is a good time in the sports book. However, the first weekend is magical for a lot of people.
These four days are ranked in the top tier of busy weekends in Las Vegas. Unless you’re a basketball fanatic you may not realize that Las Vegas is almost as busy during the first weekend of March Madness as it is on Memorial Day Weekend, July 4th, and Labor Day Weekend. Hotels in Las Vegas during the first weekend of March Madness will be near capacity. Last year, MGM Resorts was expecting to be around 98% capacity during the weekend. The first four days of March Madness in Las Vegas are no joke.
Betting On March Madness
The games begin at 9 am every day during the first weekend of March Madness. The first two days, in particular, will be chaotic in the sports books. There are 16 games in about 12 hours on both Thursday, March 16th and Friday, March 17th. The action slows down a little during the actual weekend, but that’s relative to the first two days of the NCAA basketball tournament. There are only eight games played on both Saturday, March 18th and Sunday, March 19th.
There are games overlapping on both days and a lot of people looking to get in on the action. While the sheer number of bettors is enough to create a logjam in the sports book, that’s not the biggest issue. Many college basketball fans are younger and they tend to be new bettors. The lack of experience placing wagers slows down the betting process, which is already slow from having so many people.
I always recommend signing up for a sports wagering APP when you reach the sports book. This will allow you the ability to place wagers without standing in line. Some APPs offer better lines than others, but the most important factor might be the ability to add and remove funds. While you may find better point spreads away from your home base, it may not be easy reach your funds when you’re done winning bets for four days. We all win, right?
Since most casinos in Las Vegas that aren’t operated by Caesars Entertainment offer a sports wagering APP, finding a sports wagering app in a convenient location isn’t difficult. Here’s a list of sports betting APPs.
- Boyd Gaming/B-Connected – Aliante, Cannery, Eastside Cannery, The California, Fremont, Gold Coast, The Orleans, Sam’s Town, Suncoast (Main Street Station does not have a sports book)
- CG Technology – Cosmopolitan, Hard Rock, M Resort, The Palazzo, Palms, Silverton, Tropicana, The Venetian (Station owns Palms, but CG operates the sports book)
- Golden Nugget – Golden Nugget
- MGM Resorts International/PlayMGM – Aria, Bellagio, Circus Circus, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, The Mirage, Monte Carlo, New York-New York
- NV Sports – Rampart, South Point
- Station Casinos/STN Sports – Boulder Station, El Cortez, Fiesta Henderson, Fiesta Rancho, Green Valley Ranch, Palace Station, Red Rock Resort, Santa Fe Station, Sunset Station, Texas Station, Wildfire Casinos (The own Palms, but do not operate the sports book)
- Treasure Island – Treasure Island
- Westgate/SuperBook – Westgate Las Vegas
- William Hill – Binion’s, The D, Downtown Grand, Ellis Island, Four Queens, Hooters, Plaza,
Silver Sevens, SLS Las Vegas, Tuscany and more
- Wynn – Encore, Wynn Las Vegas
How to Watch The Games
Finding a place to sit and watch the basketball games during the first weekend of March Madness can be a challenge. Not only are there a lot of people in the sports book to watch the games but there are either 8 or 16 games that last 12 hours. Here are some options on how and where to watch the games.
There is nothing like watching games during the first weekend of March Madness in a packed sports book. Many seats in a sports book are free but nearly impossible to come by if you don’t arrive before tipoff of the first game. Unless you plan on sitting in the same place for 12 hours, it will be difficult to keep the seat for all of the games. You might be able to keep the seat if you have someone able to watch it while you place wagers, use the restroom or get drinks and food. Otherwise, you might lose your seat the second you stand up.
Options : Your best bet for a free seat in a sports book is to head off the Vegas Strip. Just get to The Orleans, Green Valley Ranch, Palace Station etc. before the games start.
You might be used to all seats being free in a sports book, but that’s not always the case anymore. Some casinos and sports book operators will sell reserved seats and couches for the day. This is a good way to make sure you have a seat in the most fun place to watch the games in Las Vegas. Note, some sports book operators will only reserve seats for their biggest bettors.
Options : Reserves seats and couches at The Mirage or Caesars Palace Las Vegas sports books.
Some casinos offer free watch parties for March Madness. These parties are typically away from the Vegas Strip in a casino ballroom or theater. Seating for free parties are usually general admission and seats available on a first come first served basis. The large round tables in a ballroom is a great option for large groups who are more concerned with the watching the games and not where they’re watching the games. Some casino operators will have mobile betting stations, food and drink in or near the party to make the experience better.
Options : South Point is simply one of the best with round tables, plenty of TV’s, cheap food and drink options. Gold Coast and Golden Nugget are other places to look for a free party. The Westgate Theater is great and it will be overflowing with people.
Bars and Restaurants
There are more sports bars and restaurants in Las Vegas than ever. If you’re in Las Vegas and looking for a last minute place to watch the games you can just walk up to a sports bar and restaurant and see if there’s a seat available. The bar/restaurants will be crowded but are a great last minute way to watch the games while eating and/or drinking.
Options : PBR Rock Bar at Planet Hollywood, The Still at The Mirage, Tilted Kilt or Yard House at The Linq all have plenty of TV’s to watch the games.
Guaranteed Seat Parties
These parties will cost money but they give you a guaranteed seat to watch the games. Most of these parties will offer some kind of food, beverage and betting station options. This kind of watch party is available at just about anywhere on the Vegas Strip. The more lavish the party the more expensive it will be.
For example, Hoops and Hops at the Cosmopolitan will cost $200 per day. This party includes massive HD TV screens, a basketball court to use, video games like Golden Tee, open bar, a mobile betting station, entry to Marquee and more.
On the less expensive side, you can visit Umami Burger at SLS Las Vegas where tickets for a bar stool with open bar start at $50. The majority of March Madness parties this year on the Vegas Strip are somewhere between $100 and $150. Visit the “March Madness In Las Vegas” group on Facebook for more information on where to party for March Madness…in Las Vegas.