There is nothing like the Round of 64 opening games in the Men’s Division I NCAA Basketball Tournament and being in a Las Vegas sportsbook on that opening Thursday and/or Friday is sort of like Basketball Christmas...
If you like your Christmases loud, noisy, bright and with wall-to-wall cellphone holding young males that is. Let’s get a feel for what’s going on here in the beautiful and neon-lit city of Las Vegas to start off the biggest Basketball weekend of the year in the sportsbooks as March madness is officially underway and offer up an NCAA Tournament pick for a Friday Round of 64 game as well as a pick on a Saturday Round of 32 game.
Introduction: Fear and March Madness Loathing in World’s Largest Sportsbook
Why in the name of Billy Walters would you come to Las Vegas and struggle to bet and watch the 2016 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament games in a sportsbook crowded with straight wall-to-wall dudes when you can watch it in the comfort of your own home on massive HDTV while betting via an App on your Smartphone with your lovely wife or your pet around you? (I hear you thinking why the wife would ever want to watch basketball with you. I agree.)
This must be a Young Man’s thing as the allure of watching even the world’s greatest and clearest TV in the world’s largest sportsbook on the first day of March Madness is lost on me. It’s so overwhelming, and I’ve only lived here 25 years, bet on the NCAA Tournament every year and gone to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook—formerly the LVH and the Las Vegas Hilton—around twice weekly like it was my personal, smoky Library full of Horse Players, some old enough that they have to watch the races on the Monster Screens in the Racebook with binoculars. So why come?
To experience all of this, of course, because when you’re 87 years old and drooling on the shirt you forgot you put on in the morning, you’ll be glad you tasted the Madness of March and danced the Big Dance here in the Silver State, whether you ended up winning any money or not. And more Money will be bet on these first 4 days of March Madness combined than the Super Bowl, so remember who butters your Bread baby and that Life at the sportsbook does not come to an end after the NFL’s Super Bowl is over. Hardly. They’re just getting warmed up, be it here in Las Vegas, across the pond in Europe, Online on Offshore where the vast majority of the Modern Day lines (NCAA Tournament odds) now originate. As a matter of fact, it seems the only two days of the calendar year that the sportsbooks resemble a Library are the day before and the day after the MLB All-Star Game. Why in 1994, the late Milton Berle and I herded a flock of Sheep through the Palace Station the day after the All-Star Game and no one made a peep, not even Little Bo.
Sports Betting Market Going From Paper and People to Smartphones and Apps
It’s an absolutely beautiful day outside (Sunny, 72°) to go inside (Shadowy, 72°) and watch some Old Men and Young Men watching College Basketball games on their Smartphones instead of the million dollar TVs blanketing the walls that Señor Kornegay & Co. wrangled up for the newly remodeled sportsbook here in Sin City. And the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has so many betting windows now they stretch from the 89109 ZIP Code all the way north to the 89119 ZIP Code. Yet the Smartphone is the preferred vehicle on which to watch and to wager, as who has the precious seconds to walk up to the betting window and actually interact with a real Human Being these days? Perish the thought. But the convenience and Modern nature of using Apps at the various Las Vegas sportsbooks to bet within the state—Tourists can open accounts and bet with the Apps on their Smartphones also—is not lost on this Luddite.
“The lines (in the online sportsbooks) will be crazy this week,” said Nick Bogdanovich, Director of Trading at William Hill on Wednesday in a radio interview when talking about why using an App is really smart this time of year. And those Apps are obviously increasing business at the sportsbook and in the industry as the annual handle continues to rise sharply. “When I started out at CG Technology in 2011, the overall handle in the state of Nevada was less than $2 billion, around $2 billion,” COO of CG Analytics, Matthew Holt said Wednesday in a TV interview. “Last year, the state of Nevada did $4.3 billion (sports betting) and this year they expect the state of Nevada to do over $5 billion.”
So people are betting on sports more in the state of Nevada, and the popularity Online, in Europe and Offshore is also growing proportionally as more people worldwide get into more sports and the technologies continue to make getting down on action easier than ever. Welcome to The Future where you can parlay Austin Peay in the NCAA Tournament with Sevilla in the UEFA Europa League in less than 30 seconds without having to move from your seat.
First Big Cinderella Upset, Yale Over Baylor, Good News For CG Technology
The NCAA Tournament had no real surprises in the first wave of Thursday games until #12-seed Yale knocked off #5-seed Baylor in the West Region, and CG Technology’s Holt said on the the local ESPN 1100 LV Sportsline radio program that Yale’s straight-up win over Baylor was a six-figure (positive) decision for his sportsbook in what he said was the biggest liability for CGT. So, a really nice way to start for the House, at least CG Technology’s House. And Day 1 really needed a jolt, with a sleepy start and all most of the favorites—Duke, Virginia, Iowa State, Butler and Connecticut—winning straight up and few real last-second finishes that put the “madness” in March. “I’ve been to several books today and the crowds have been pretty subdued,” said Matt Youmans, longtime Sports Writer for the Las Vegas Review-Journal on local ESPN 1100 radio on Thursday afternoon.
But that will change as the Tournament heats up and sports gamblers eventually wake up and the neurons start flaking off. Demand for rooms in Las Vegas has also increased and Hotels in Sin City this weekend are reportedly asking an average of around $225 per night more from customers, making the NCAA Tournament a holiday of sorts comparable with the Super Bowl and New Year’s Eve for the tourist destination.
And many tourists treat the Big Dance like a Holiday. “It was on my Bucket List to come bet on the NCAA Tournament in Las Vegas while it was going on, so I get to knock that out,” said Rodolfo Garza, who flew in to Sin City from Texas to pull for and wager on his Texas A&M Aggies who face Wisconsin-Green Bay in their opener in the West Region on Friday night (TBS, Directv 247, 7:20 p.m. ET/4:20 p.m. PT; Odds: Texas A&M -13½, -155½, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook). And like the Hotel room rates, size of the TV screens and betting handles as well as the number of betting options for the NCAA Basketball Tournament, the popularity for this magical event should continue to get bigger.