The first weekend of March Madness just finished.
Visitors watching and wagering on the games had a great time once again as the Las Vegas experience returned to pre-pandemic conditions.
While a fun time, even veterans of March Madness in Las Vegas can look back and see changes for better or worse.
Watching and wagering on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament next year should go to another level next year.
Sweet 16 And Elite 8 In Las Vegas
Most college hoops fans are getting ready for the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 this week. However, Las Vegas is already looking forward to 2023.
Next year will be the first time that Las Vegas hosts Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games.
Las Vegas typically only has the great March Madness watch parties for the first weekend of tournament games. That could change next year with regional round games being played from March 23 – 25 in Las Vegas and around the country.
Next year, the second weekend of March Madness in Las Vegas might be even better than the opening weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament. From a fan and Nevada sports betting perspective.
Since the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament will be taking place in Las Vegas the atmosphere will be similar to conference tournament week. There will be games from around the country to watch and wager on in sportsbooks while there are also tournament games taking place in Las Vegas.
The major difference from conference tournament week is that Las Vegas should busier and more expensive.
How We Got Here
Prior to the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), NCAA championship events couldn’t be held in states with legal sports betting. That had to change as some states that typically host NCAA championships would eventually legalize sports betting.
The NCAA would have to update its policy to ensure events could still take place all over the country. In 2020 the NCAA announced locations for 450 championship events through 2025 and into 2026.
As part of the announcement, Nevada received the opportunity to host 11 NCAA championship events. The major score here was Las Vegas hosting the 2023 NCAA men’s basketball regional tournament games. This round includes the Sweet 16 and Elite 8.
The tournament games will take place at T-Mobile Arena behind New York-New York and next to Park MGM.
Hotel Rooms Already Sky High For The Sweet 16 And Elite 8
Conference tournament week in Las Vegas is popular with the biggest college basketball fans and bettors.
This is in part because Las Vegas isn’t as crowded and hotel rooms are less expensive than the first weekend of March Madness. This week of games is also popular because Las Vegas hosts multiple tournaments and shows all others in the sportsbooks.
This will hold true again next year. A very early look at Caesars Palace hotel room rates averages $316 per night for conference tournament week. The price increases by $100 to $416 for the first weekend of March Madness.
The hotel room price at Caesars Palace skyrockets to an average of $732 per night for the weekend the NCAA men’s regional rounds take place in Las Vegas. There’s sure to be high demand for hotel rooms in Las Vegas between college students, staff, players, media and tourists visiting Las Vegas.
The hotel room price trend is typical for Las Vegas. While the prices may be different at times throughout the next year, the trend of higher prices for the different weekends of March Madness should continue.
There isn’t a greater draw to Las Vegas than live events. March Madness games being played in Las Vegas should be no different.
NIT In Las Vegas?
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament may have company in Las Vegas next year. The National Invitation Tournament (NIT) is considering a move to Las Vegas for its semi-finals and final game.
There was a time when the NIT was the pinnacle for college basketball events. Today the NIT plays second fiddle to the NCAA basketball tournament. Teams participating in the NIT are essentially those that didn’t make the NCAA basketball tournament.
Early round games of the NIT are played on college campuses. The semi-finals and finals of the NIT have been played at Madison Square Garden in New York City since 1938.
According to ESPN, this tradition is ending. Las Vegas could be in the running to host the final two rounds of NIT games in the future according to the report.
“possible locations running the gamut from historical arenas like Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis to a resort destination like Las Vegas. A decision is expected in the next few months.”
The final two rounds of the NIT this year will be played on March 29 and 31 this year. These games are all played mid-week and don’t conflict with the Sweet 16, Elite 8 or Final Four rounds of the NCAA basketball tournament this year.
Assuming the scheduling remains the same next year, Las Vegas could feasibly host both the NCAA basketball regional and the NIT semi-finals and final game next year. NIT organizers could decide to go to one location next year and Las Vegas in two years.
The NIT may not be as popular with the public but it would be appealing to Las Vegas businesses. The three basketball games will draw mid-week visitors who may not have been planning a trip to Las Vegas. This will provide a spike to hotels and businesses throughout Las Vegas.
Expect the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to put on a full-court press to host these NIT games.