March Madness parties take center stage in Las Vegas
By Gary Trask
Last year, the nearly 200 sportsbooks in Nevada wrote an all-time high of $375.5 million in wagers on NCAA and NBA games, with nearly 70% of those tickets on college hoops. The previous record, set in 2014, was $343.5 million. The total basketball handle for sportsbooks in the month of March has also been on the rise, going from $19.4 million in 2014 to $27.9 million last year.
Combine that with an expected 98% Las Vegas Strip hotel occupancy during the first round of next week's NCAA men's basketball tournament (March 17-20), and the fact that the first day of the first round happens to fall on St. Patrick's Day this year, and it's obvious why many observers are expecting another historic amount of action.
"March Madness is an absolute monster for us," said Jason Simbal, vice president of risk management for CG Technology, whose Las Vegas sports book partners include The Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino, The Palms Casino Resort, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. "It's just crazy and it gets bigger and bigger every year, especially that first round."
The problem for the college basketball fans who'll flood the city next week will be finding an open seat at a sportsbook. Lines typically begin forming at predawn hours, and many venues have already blocked off seats for their best customers.
To help handle the masses of sports bettors looking for a spot to set up shop for the games, many Las Vegas properties are hosting March Madness viewing parties, which turn ballrooms and other venues into makeshift sportsbooks, complete with seating, betting windows, food and drink specials, and more. Some are free to attend, while others range in price from $25 a day to as much as $1,500, if you're looking for VIP seating and treatment.
Below is a sampling of a number of spots where you and your group can set up camp next week and put a check mark next to the "March Madness in Vegas" box on your bucket list.
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
Hoops and Hops
In addition to a brand-new sportsbook unveiled just before Super Bowl weekend, The Cosmo will also transform The Chelsea ballroom into a "luxurious" sports lounge for a Hoops and Hops party. From 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on March 17-19, the room will have nine giant TV screens, a dedicated sportsbook counter, blackjack tables, pool tables, shuffleboard and half-court basketball.
A three-day premium pass is $375 per person and includes all-day access to all levels with open bar and premium seating. Single-day premium tickets begin at $175 and general admission single-day tickets start at $45 and include general admission open seating, two drink tickets and access to the gallery level.
Paris Las Vegas
Budweiser Beer Park
The new two-level, rooftop bar, which opened earlier this year, features a 10,000 square-foot deck overlooking the Strip. While "The King of Beers" has its name on the shingle, there are 100 beers available, including 36 on tap, as well as other cocktails and a full menu. Its first foray into March Madness will feature a viewing party with reserved seating available if you purchase a minimum of $150 in food and beverage.
SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino
From March 17-20, Umami Burger, Beer Garden & Sports Book will feature more than 50 televisions, a giant video wall, giveaways and a full menu. Open bar tickets start at $125 per person. Table packages, which include a $5 bet per person at the William Hill Sports Book, open bar and food credit, are also on sale starting at $650 for four people.
In addition to watching the games in Westgate's newly renovated, $13 million SuperBook, the world's largest sportsbook that boasts a 220-foot-long, 18-foot-high video wall, guests can also catch the March Madness action at a free viewing party inside the 1,500-seat Westgate International Theater. Doors open at 8 a.m. on March 17-19 and 8:30 a.m. on March 20. The smoke-free environment will have giant HD screens, food and drink specials, satellite betting stations and giveaways.
The LINQ Hotel & Casino
Hoops at The LINQ
The LINQ Promenade – Caesars Entertainment’s open-air shopping, dining and entertainment district that is also home to the High Roller observation wheel – has multiple options for March Madness viewing parties, complete with jumbo screens on the fountain stage, drink specials, games and prizes through Sunday, March 20.
Admission to Tag Sports Bar and The Pool at The LINQ Clubhouse is $100 per person and includes a "comfort food" buffet, a bucket of Miller Lite or Coors Light, and access to the games. AmeriCAN will host a tournament viewing party, complete with premier seating inside and on the patio, as well as $50 beverage packages from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., or $75 for all-day with cocktails and a beer menu of nearly 70 canned beers representative of each of the 50 states. Finally, the Tilted Kilt will have all-you-can drink draft beer wristbands (from open to close) sold on site for $100 per person, per day.
Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower
March BBall Tournament Headquarters
It's free to enter the Stratosphere Theater, March 17-20, to watch the games on nine wall-to-wall screens along with numerous food and drink specials. Hotel guests receive priority entrance.
Doors to the March BBall Tournament Headquarters open daily at 8 a.m. and fans can enjoy live betting stations, blackjack tables, $3 and $6 food specials, $15 Bud or Bud Light pitchers, a cash bar and free Wi-Fi. Food specials can be ordered directly from seats.
The Palms Casino Resort
World's Largest Hooters
During March Madness, guests of the world's largest Hooters can enjoy 20 world famous wings and a pitcher of Pacifico for $25, or a 26-ounce Big Daddy Mugs of Modelo, Pacifico and Corona Light for just $4.50. The spacious new venue, which opened last fall, has 50 TVs and more than 15,200-square-foot of seating for nearly 500 guests.
The Venetian Las Vegas
Located in the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian and The Palazzo, Rockhouse is offering both half-day and full-day premium open bar packages from March 17-20. The restaurant has a revamped selection of craft beers and more than 80 HDTVs. Half-day tickets (8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 4 p.m. to close) are $125, and full-day tickets are $200.
Caesars Entertainment Properties
Hoops Viewing Parties
Admission is $149 per person at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, Flamingo Las Vegas and Harrah's Las Vegas Casino & Hotel and $199 at Caesars Palace and includes open bar for Miller Lite and Coors Light, all-you-can-eat buffet, live betting stations and table games, classroom-style premium seating and giveaways with Miller Lite and Coors Light models.
Madness in March
Sponsored by the TI Players Club, the event is held in the nonsmoking Treasure Island ballroom with multiple large-screen TVs and banquet table seating and is free to attend. Doors open at 7:30 a.m. and seating is first come, first served. There will be a cash bar and a concessions stand, as well as satellite betting stations.
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Hosted by the girls of REHAB and featuring a build-your-own Bloody Mary station and a Jack Fire shot bar, The Joint at the Hard Rock Casino will host a Tournament Madness party, March 17-19. General admission tickets start at $100 per person, per day and include bottomless Budweiser or Bud Light draft beer, unlimited soft drinks and an all-you-can-eat buffet. A three-day general admission ticket package is $250 and seating in VIP suites and lounges on the second floor of The Joint with open bar and a personal cocktail server are also available. In addition to betting stations and giveaways, there will be numerous party games such as beer pong, bean bag toss and pop-a-shot.
Downtown Grand Las Vegas
March Mayhem Viewing Party
For $25, guests receive an all-day buffet and cash bar with drink specials while watching the games in the Fremont Room each day, starting at 9 a.m.
South Point Hotel Casino and Spa
March to the Championship Party
Doors to the Grand Ballroom open each day at 8 a.m. with betting stations and giveaways. Drink specials include $3 Bud Light, Budweiser and Bud Lime, $16 for an iced bucket of Buds and $25 pitchers of Bloody Marys or margaritas.