Las Vegas Already Feeling March Madness

Written By Marc Meltzer on March 2, 2022
Arizona could make deep run in NCAA Tournament

It’s March and college hoops Madness is upon us! While many people wait for the NCAA basketball tournament to begin, bettors in Las Vegas are already getting in on the action.

The first college conference tournaments are already underway. Las Vegas is only home to one major college basketball team with UNLV. This tournament hasn’t even started.

As one might imagine, Las Vegas is the host of UNLV’s Mountain West Conference. What many may not realize is that Las Vegas is actually home to multiple men’s and women’s college conference basketball tournaments in the weeks leading into the NCAA basketball tournament.

Even as sports betting becomes legal around the country, there is no city that has legal sports betting with the same number of college basketball tournaments as Las Vegas.

Before March Madness even begins, there will be more than a hundred games taking place in Las Vegas that bettors can watch live and wager. Additionally, there are more than a thousand games taking place around the country that bettors can watch and wager on in the sportsbooks.

There are plenty of avid college basketball fans that visit Las Vegas for the conference tournaments. Everything is less busy or expensive during the week leading into the NCAA basketball tournament.

The first weekend of March Madness, however, is one of the busiest sports weekends of the year. While there are 48 games played over four days, college basketball isn’t the only reason Las Vegas is busy during this first weekend.

The first weekend also coincides with spring break at many colleges around the country. This also happens to be the beginning of pool season and that means dayclubs are reopening.

The dayclubs offer spring breakers and college hoops fans a place to party during the day outside of the sportsbooks. This year, regional visitors from California and Arizona will be visiting to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day as well.

While sports betting is legal around the country, few offer the same atmosphere as Las Vegas inside and outside of the casinos.

Conference Conference Tournaments

College basketball conference tournament week in Las Vegas is a treasure trove of hoops action. Unlike most cities with gambling, there are games to watch in person and on TV in the sportsbooks.

The following college basketball tournaments are taking place in Las Vegas:

  • Pac 12 (Women): March 2-6 at Michelob ULTRA Arena inside Mandalay Bay
  • Western Athletic Conference (WAC): March 8 at Michelob ULTRA Arena inside Mandalay Bay
  • Mountain West Conference (Women): March 6-9 at Thomas and Mack Center
  • Big West Conference: March 8-12 at Dollar Loan Center in Henderson
  • Mountain West Conference (Men): March 9-12 at Thomas and Mack Center
  • Western Athletic Conference (WAC): March 9-12 at Orleans Arena inside The Orleans
  • West Coast Conference: March 3-8 at Orleans Arena inside The Orleans
  • Pac 12 (Men): March 9-12 at T-Mobile Arena

In addition to being able to see games in person, the great thing about visiting Las Vegas for conference tournaments is that it’s not as busy as the first weekend of March Madness.

The lines to place a bet in person aren’t nearly as long as during the first weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament Men’s and Women’s Tournaments a week or two later. It’s also easier to get show tickets and restaurant reservations since there are fewer people in town.

Having said that, there is no Las Vegas sports betting experience like the first weekend of March Madness.

March Madness Viewing

Conference tournament week is a great time for diehard college basketball fans. The first weekend of March Madness in Las Vegas is for the masses.

The first weekend of March Madness in Las Vegas became popular for just college hoops fans. It’s growing into something bigger and better with pool season starting and the day and night clubs booking top talent to perform.

St. Patrick’s Day falls during the first weekend of March Madness this year which will take the partying to another level.

Much like the Super Bowl, there are so many people in Las Vegas that watching and wagering on the games isn’t as easy as just walking into a sportsbook, betting on games and sitting down.

Here are some things to consider when making a plan to watch games during the first weekend of March Madness in Las Vegas.

Sportsbook Seats

Most of the sportsbooks on the Vegas Strip charge a reservation fee during the first weekend of March Madness. Even the popular sportsbooks off the Strip will charge a reservation fee for some seats.

That said, there are plenty of casinos off-strip that keep general admission sportsbook seats available as a first-come, first-served option.

There truly is no March Madness experience anywhere in the US like being inside one of the large Las Vegas sportsbooks.

Bar/Restaurant/Ballroom Parties

Much like the Super Bowl, there are March Madness watch parties available at bars and restaurants throughout Las Vegas. Casinos also offer watch parties inside of ballrooms.

Many of these parties often include food and adult beverages along with a reserved seat for a fee. While they can be fun, these environments don’t offer the same experience as watching inside of a sportsbook.

In the past, there were many off-strip free watch parties. Unfortunately, some of those parties are charging a small fee to offset the cost. Parties at casinos away from the touristy Vegas Strip and downtown Las Vegas are typically less expensive.

Fun In The Sun

The first weekend of March Madness falls just as many Las Vegas casino pools and dayclubs are opening for the season. Those who don’t need to watch all the games at once can rent a cabana and enjoy the games on a single TV with food and beverage service.

There are also pools with viewing screens that will be showing the games. Circa’s Stadium Swim and Sahara’s Azilo pool are a couple of options with large video screens.

This is a very “only in Vegas” experience and could be a great option to change things up. Since reservations are daily, a person or group can bounce between the different March Madness viewing options in Las Vegas.

The “March Madness In Las Vegas” Facebook group is a great resource for anyone looking for specific viewing information. The members have some fun college hoops talk, too.

March Madness Betting

There are many options to watch the games during the first weekend of March Madness in Las Vegas since there are so many people in town. There’s really only one way to get the best gambling experience when visiting Las Vegas for busy sporting events.

Signing up for a Nevada sports betting app is crucial for enjoying the first weekend of March Madness. Nobody visits Las Vegas to stand in lines for 15-30 minutes every time they want to place a wager.

Using a sportsbook app cuts downtime standing around waiting to place a wager. However, signing up for a new Nevada sports betting app account is different than in most states.

In Nevada, all registration for a sports betting app account and initial funding must happen at a full-service retail sportsbook inside of a casino. Full stop.

Once someone registers an account in person, betting on sports is similar to being anywhere with legal sportsbook apps. A player can now place bets and withdraw or deposits without visiting a sportsbook again.

Since some Las Vegas sportsbooks operate in other states it’s also important to realize that apps outside of Nevada are not linked with Nevada sports betting apps.

For example, a BetMGM app from New Jersey will not work in Nevada. BetMGM customers in other states must sign up for a Nevada-only sportsbook account inside a sportsbook at one of the following casinos:

  • Aria
  • Bellagio
  • Excalibur
  • Luxor
  • Mandalay Bay
  • MGM Grand
  • New York-New York
  • Park MGM
  • The Mirage (the sale to Hard Rock won’t be completed until later this year)

This is also true for sports betting apps from Caesars, William Hill and Wynn from other states. Sportsbook apps from some operators like DraftKings and FanDuel are not available to use at all in Nevada.

Signing up for a Nevada sports betting account doesn’t take much time but the process is different than in other states.

Signing up for a sports betting account should take place well before the tipoff of the NCAA basketball tournament. There will likely be long lines when the masses arrive in Las Vegas to enjoy the first weekend of March Madness.

Photo by AP / Marcio Jose Sanchez
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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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