In recent years, some people (like me) might say that the first weekend of March Madness has surpassed the Super Bowl as the biggest weekend of the year in Las Vegas for sports fans. Not only is there a larger crowd for the first weekend of the NCAA Basketball Tournament ( aka March Madness) but there’s a younger crowd filling sports books, bars, restaurants, nightclubs and casinos. Shows? Not so much.
The first weekend of March Madness takes place this year from March 17 through March 20 and there’s a lot action for sports fans and bettors during those four days weekend. Thursday, March 17 and Friday, March 18 each has 16 games beginning at 9 am and ending somewhere around 9 pm. There are so many games each day that there are often multiple games being played and wagered on at the same time. The pace slows down a little on the weekend when there are only 8 more games on Saturday, March 19 and Sunday, March 20. Don’t forget, the NBA and NHL have normal schedules during the weekend. There’s a lot of sports action.
The first weekend of March Madness has become the ultimate annual “Guys Weekend” in Las Vegas for 20 somethings and 40 somethings alike. There are more bros and guys per square foot than you’ll normally see in Las Vegas. Sure, there will be women in Las Vegas but this is the weekend that large groups of male sports fans seemingly outnumber every other type of group in Las Vegas.
March Madness Challenges
The large crowds produce some challenges to enjoy March Madness to the fullest. Watching and wagering on the games isn’t as simple as just walking into the sports book. Every sports book is packed from open to close. You might be surprised to learn that most sports books in Las Vegas close for a few hours every night.
Getting a seat to watch the games in a sports book is a challenge that’s usually reserved for early risers. These free viewing spots are in higher demand than normal during the first weekend of March Madness. There are unconfirmed rumors that basketball fans and bettors used to pay homeless people to sleep in the sports book to guarantee they have a seat for the games.
A single person might find a seat in the sports book during the day but it’s nearly impossible if you’re with friends. Finding a free seat in a sports book is possible but they’re not readily available anytime you want. If you want to guarantee you and your group have seats with access to TV’s showing the games you might want to opt for a viewing party.
March Madness Viewing Parties
Viewing parties come in all shapes and sizes nowadays. Some of the off-strip properties have free general admission parties in their ballroom with access to food and beverages. Some properties will open their ballroom where you pay for a guaranteed seat. Food and beverage may be included in these parties but not always.
Most bars and restaurants that have multiple TV’s will offer different viewing party options for food and beverage. These parties start around $75 per day and can cost hundreds of dollars per day depending on the party. Many of the parties will sell out of reserved seats in advance. VegasParlay.com is an excellent reference if you’re looking for a place to watch the games. You can see their list of March Madness viewing parties here.
Wagering On March Madness
Wagering during the first weekend of March Madness isn’t as simple as most days in the sports book either. There are games on literally all day without a break. The lines to wager in the sports book are long not only because there are a lot of games but because there are so many people. There isn’t a “best time” to get your wagers in on the games. Don’t worry, technology has offered a workaround for this.
About 5 years ago a company called Leroy’s (now William Hill) introduced the first sports wagering app in Las Vegas. Since then almost every sports book operator in Las Vegas has joined the app evolution. Here’s a list of apps and casino affiliations.
Boyd Gaming – The California, Fremont, Gold Coast, The Orleans, Sam’s Town, Suncoast (Main Street Station does not have a sports book)
Cosmopolitan, Hard Rock, M Resort, The Palazzo, Palms, Silverton, Tropicana, The Venetian
Cannery, Eastside Cannery, Rampart, South Point
Station Casinos – 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
Westgate Las Vegas
Binion’s, The D, Downtown Grand, Ellis Island, Four Queens, Hooters, Plaza, Silver Sevens, SLS Las Vegas, Tuscany and more
Wynn (Available 2/29)
You’ll notice that two large casino operators in Las Vegas are missing from the list of sports book apps. MGM Resorts is currently testing a new sports wagering app and will introduce it in the near future. It’s been rumored for over a year that Caesars Entertainment will have an app but that’s gone silent as they deal with other pressing matters.
It takes about 10 minutes to sign up for a sports wagering account so you can use one of these apps which can only be used in Nevada. I recommend visiting the sports book to fund your account as soon as you get to Las Vegas as lines will be long once the tournament begins.
Funding a sports wagering account for the weekend is a great option to avoid waiting in line every time you want to place a wager. It’s also a great way to budget yourself through the myriad of games played.
Epic Party Weekend
The first weekend of March Madness in Las Vegas is always a great party since it also falls during spring break. The party should be a little crazier this year with the addition of Saint Patrick’s Day on Thursday, March 17. Like most holidays in Las Vegas St. Paddy’s Day will be celebrated all weekend.
Make plans now if you want to have a nice dinner, see a show, go to a nightclub or do anything that requires a ticket or reservations.