Super Bowl can’t top NCAA Tournament ‘First Four’

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Most people associate the Super Bowl with being the most action packed time of the year in a Las Vegas sports book, but the truth of the matter is the first four days of March Madness – that we’re about to embark upon on Thursday – has everything beat on the calendar.

Not only does the NCAA Tournament give bettors hours of thrilling moments in a betting environment, but it also offers the least volatile month of the year for Nevada sports books. On both sides of the counter, it’s a win-win situation.

When Nevada sports book directors review their year-to-year ledgers detailing monthly win percentages, the one month that has least variance is March, because of the NCAA Tournament.

Unlike all the other months that have huge swings in win-loss, whether it be football or baseball season, March stays steady with a positive hold of about 7 to 10 percent. The Tournament also represents the books’ most handled event of the year, including the Super Bowl.

So when mixing in the highest hold percentage of any event along with the getting the most action, you can see why the books might want to cater to the crowds a little more and get the maximum amount of people through their doors.

The NCAA Tournament doesn’t need much help in generating excitement. It does well on its own, but for the sports book to gain a little edge over their competition, they like to run a series of promotions or contests.

Over at Station Casinos, they’ve been running the Last Man Standing contest for the last 10 years in what has become Las Vegas’ most popular contest. For a $25 entry fee, contestants pick one game against the spread.

If you win, you move on to the next round, until there is only one man or woman standing. They guarantee $50,000 to the winner, but the figure always exceeds the guarantee. All additional money received goes into the pot. If you buy four entries, the fifth one is free.

Another wrinkle in the March Madness promotions this season is a Wednesday night seminar they’ll be hosting at the Sunset Station from 7-8 p.m. to get bettors prepared for all the wagering activity. Sunset sports book director Chuck Esposito has brought in his friend, ESPN handicapping analyst Hank Goldberg to offer some tips and advice on how to best tackle the betting menu.

“We did a seminar before the football season and it went very well,” said Esposito. “This is a great informal setting where the people attending get to ask questions throughout.”

The seminar will be held right in the middle of the spacious Sunset book, one of the nicest layouts in the city.

“It’s the perfect stop for those making their final wagers or turning in their Last Man Standing entries,” said Esposito.

Over at William Hill sports books, they have a contest similar to Station’s with the exception being they allow contestants to lose three times before they’re out. It’s called the 3-n-Out contest, and is against the spread with $25,000 in guaranteed money to the winner.

The cool thing about this contest is the ease of entering because they have hundreds of locations around the state between the actual William Hill sports books and Golden Gaming kiosks.

The Tournament is also a big enough event that it’s used on the calendar as a due date for debuting new amenities. The Mirage sports book has flipped their race and sports book rooms giving the sports bettors what was the large race side, and right in the middle of the room will be a 85′ x 19′ 4K HD screen.

“The picture is outstanding whether you’re 5 feet away or 500 feet away,” said MGM Resorts race and sports vice president Jay Rood. “There is nothing on the Strip like it.”

William Hill is also using March to debut a new book at the Plaza Tuesday where they’ll be giving away mini basketballs and pizza with former Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman doing the opening ceremonies.

The Plaza has a special place in many long time bettors’ hearts because it was the first hotel in Las Vegas to have a sports book in the early 70’s. Before that, every book was stand alone.

The LVH and South Point will have huge viewing parties in their show rooms and usually offer the most exciting environments with thousands of bettors hootin’ and hollerin’ on each made or missed basket.

For those who want a little more intimate and reserved experience, the Cosmopolitan is opening up their Brera ballroom for the tournament with a wide ranging entry fee of $40 to $375. For $125 per day, you can drink all you want, which in some cases, turns out to be pretty cheap after 15 hours of watching games.

As for the odds alone, most books will be offering similar lines with the same payouts and you really can’t go wrong anywhere because everyone goes all out. But if looking to bet futures, you might want to be a little more selective.

I found the LVH Super Book to have the lowest theoretic hold in the city with their NCAA Futures, holding only 27 percent. William Hill was next in line with fair prices, and Station Casinos was up there as well with one of the lower holds.

Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].

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