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Nevada sportsbooks had competition for March Madness customers for the first time ever from seven states in this new era of the legal sportsbook industry in the United States.

There was a thought that some of the business might be hurt on the first weekend of the NCAA Basketball Tournament after seeing Super Bowl handle drop in the state for the first time in five years, but there was no need to worry. There was plenty of cash to go around for every state with a new book.

MGM Resorts sportsbooks stated their handle was flat on the same four days from 2018, but just about every other book in the state said their handle was up mostly due to more in-progress wagering and mobile phone accounts.

“Our handle was up 10 percent and I’m very confident we had a record in ticket counts,” said Westgate SuperBook VP Jay Kornegay. “The results were very positive the first two days and then we were a small winner Saturday and a small loser Sunday.”

That seemed to be the same sentiment from most bet shops. Favorites, which the public traditionally love to roll with in the tournament, went 11-21 against-the-spread on Thursday and Friday with 11 underdogs winning outright.

On Saturday and Sunday, the favorites went 11-5 ATS with no underdogs winning outright. Sunday’s final two games posted with Houston (-6.5) beating Ohio State, 74-59, and Oregon (-4.5) beating UC-Irvine, 73-54, for the Ducks 10th straight win and cover gave most books a losing or break even day.

“All 16 favorites have won straight up in the round of 32,” Kornegay said. “Since the field expanded in 1985 there has never been a year, until now, where all 16 favorites won outright. There have been three occasions when 15 of the 16 teams won outright, 1991, 1995, and 2009. In each of those years, the favorites that lost was favored by less than two points.”

The books took all the cheese the first two days and by the time the favorites started coming back, the bettors’ bankroll had been severely crippled to the point where they didn’t cash as much as they should have with all 16 favorites winning Saturday and Sunday.

The cream rose to the top on the courts, but bettors second-guessed themselves on favorites after getting pummeled in the first round and also ran out of gas. The second round results should have buried the books with money-line parlays. But the first round played mind games with the bettors.

March Madness is some kind of business in Las Vegas and it’s stronger than ever despite the competition. 

South Point Deal

If you plan on betting the rest of the tournament, save yourself some juice and bet it at the South Point sportsbook because they’ll be offering -105 juice on straight bets from the Sweet 16 through the Final Four.

This is what they do for everything. South Point owner Michael Gaughan gives director Chris Andrews the authority to do these type of things on big events to help get people through the doors. And it works. Every time.

Andrews has been getting rave reviews from sharp bettors around the country for taking on just about every bet that comes through the door while folks in states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania have been dealing with troubles of getting large bets in under the standard England model.

Big cheers to Chris and Mr. Gaughan for being the leader. It sounds like a smart business plan for the South Point sportsbook brand to expand into these other markets.  

MLB Pitchers To Watch

Major League Baseball suggested Nevada and New Jersey not book Spring Training games because the players aren’t necessarily playing to win as they do in the regular season.

And while I don’t bet the exhibition games, I do pay attention to what starting pitchers have been outstanding because it usually carries on through April when the games count.

Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander have both been good but most figured they would and their pitcher rating is already at an elite status. What I like to identify are the starters that may offer huge value by being unknown or underrated early.

Here are a couple of starters to take a chance on in April: 

Dakota Hudson, Cardinals: The big right-hander didn’t have any starts in 26 appearances last season during his rookie campaign, but four of his six appearances were starts and he was so impressive that he’s already been named the fifth starter.

The Cardinals’ 2016 first round draft pick out of Mississippi State has allowed three runs in 21.2 innings (1.25 ERA), struck out 20, and has held batters to a .192 batting average.

His first start is expected to be Monday, April 1 at Pittsburgh and he’ll offer plenty of value.

Pablo Lopez, Marlins: He made 10 starts for the Marlins as a rookie last season and he’s one of six pitchers vying for a spot in the rotation, but I don’t see how manager Don Mattingly could deny him based on his spring.

He’s 3-0 in five appearances, two starts, with only two earned runs (0.90 ERA) allowed in 20 innings. The 23-year-old has just one walk against 16 strikeouts and batters are hitting only .149 off him.  

Trevor Richards, Marlins: He’s another starter awaiting Mattingly’s decision, but like Lopez, it would be hard to say he didn’t earn a spot based on his spring.

He had the lowest batting average allowed (.125) among all spring starters and allowed four runs in 19.1 innings over five starts while striking out 20.

Because of the Marlins low rating, he’ll have chunky prices early on that are worth taking a shot with.

Jeremy Hellickson, Nationals: The veteran enters his 10th season and will be the No. 5 starter, but because the Nationals have three days off in their first two weeks they’ll go with a four-man rotation meaning Hellickson will start the season in the bullpen.

But when he comes back I’ll be betting him based on his stellar spring and he’s been a starter I’ve wagered on because of always being underpriced. I

In five spring starts he’s gone 4-0 allowing just two earned runs (0.95) over 19 innings while striking out 19 batters.

Shane Bieber, Indians: If he looks as good in the regular season as he has this spring the Indians can claim to have the best rotation in baseball.

After a solid rookie year, the former UC Santa Barbara standout has held hitters this spring to a .150 batting average while striking out 29 in 24 innings and walking just four.

What’s amazing about the batting averages against him is that he’s pitching in Arizona where the ball carries much more than Florida. It’s the lowest average allowed among starters in Arizona and the fourth lowest, including Florida. He’ll be cheap early on.

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