It used to be that the Super Bowl was the zenith of all sporting events for Las Vegas sportsbooks. However this winter’s celebration of the professional athlete is finding a fierce challenger in the March playoff celebration of collegiate basketball.
Over the last 20 years there has been a steady increase in the number of visitors booking rooms in Las Vegas during March Madness. In 2008, February basketball betting was $116.7 million compared to $238.9 million in March, more than doubling the money wagered in Nevada casinos.
Will this trend continue this year? Can March Madness help boost the Vegas economy yet one more time?
The answer for right now seems to be – yes and a guarded yes. Major Las Vegas sports books at Caesars, Mirage and the Hilton reported late last week that more men than last year showed up for the start of March Madness, while taking the time to lounge in comfy chairs, and more importantly for the Las Vegas economy, drink and eat.
Though this year’s Las Vegas sports books are taking in a greater number of bets, both men and women are betting fewer dollars per wager- so far.
“I’m pleasantly surprised in light of the economy,” said a beaming Jim Pedulla, director of Caesars’ race and sports book. He arrived to work last Thursday and had to immediately find an extra 160 seats for the more than 1,000 people who packed his book by 5:30 a.m.
While great hotel and restaurant deals in Las Vegas are abundantly available both on and off the Strip, all the Las Vegas hotel sports books are definitely bustling with the brisk post-St. Patrick Day-pre-Spring Break-currently-celebrating March Madness crowds.
Will this bristling activity be eventually translated into happy – not maddening – Las Vegas revenues?