Vegas books thrive during March Madness

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The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament was everything the Las Vegas sports books could have asked for and more.

The crowds were just as large and boisterous as ever, the beers were cold and the games went the way of the house. It was a win across the board for every book in town as bettors couldn’t gain any momentum.

“Great crowds, great games, packed books,” said Station Casinos sports book director Jason McCormick on Sunday night. “It’s exciting to walk in the book in the morning knowing that your guests are going to have a great time today, win or lose!

For the most part, it was the books that did most of the winning as the public’s most popular side to bet, the favorites, went 21-31 against the spread.

When bettors came out with the most intensity and vigor on Thursday, they all had fun, but were immediately stripped of their cash as favorites went 4-12 ATS. Another popular wager is betting the totals OVER and those went 4-12 as well Thursday.

“Thursday’s UAB, Georgia State early morning upsets made for a great tournament tip-off,” McCormick said. “Georgetown’s late ‘dunk cover’ over a popular play, Eastern Washington, closed out a strong Thursday for the books.”

“Thursday’s win was one of our best days I’ve ever seen in the Tournament,” said South Point sports book director Bert Osborne who is booking his 30th NCAA Tournament.

“It was almost like everything we needed to happen to win a game did, and I’ve never seen that before. I’ve seen plenty of these Thursday’s go the other way where everything goes bad for us and then we have huge risk for the Friday games with carryover risk, but nothing go so perfect like Thursday.”

After bettors were wiped out on Thursday, they came back firing Friday despite a severely crippled bankroll and the only thing regularly paying out was the ATM machine. But the games were much kinder on Friday with the favorites going 8-8 and the OVER going 9-7. However, the books still ended up winning.

There was a lull on Saturday and Sunday where handle was reportedly down everywhere. Part of the reason was because guests had gone 

full throttle for the first two days with lots of drinking and were simply worn down.

Another part was not having any more money after losing. But then there’s also the later start times on Saturday and Sunday where games were scattered, which takes away some of the intensity in the books.

“We had a drop in handle all four days,” said Golden Nugget sports book director Tony Miller, “I know it’s because of this CBS TV schedule. These single games and late starts are killing my crowd.”

The Golden Nugget had huge crowds throughout their casino in the book, bars and showroom where they had a daily party, but with less games to start the day, some of the bettors got restless and found other areas to occupy their Vegas time. It was easy to get sidetracked in other areas of gaming when consistently losing at sports.

“They’ve (CBS) been doing this late schedule over the weekend the past three years and it’s definitely not good for business,” said MGM Resorts sports book hub manager Jeff Stoneback. “Our handle was down Saturday and Sunday, but just as much as the start times can be blamed is the fact people didn’t have any more money after Thursday and Friday. It was actually kind of quiet on Sunday night.”

Stoneback said the MGM books won on all four days despite the declining handle.

“(Sunday) seemed much slower than yesterday,” said McCormick. “Handles were slightly up on Thursday and Friday and slightly down on Saturday compared to last year. I think we could see some big handles next week if Arizona/Wisconsin and Duke/Gonzaga hook up.”

Next week there will be an entirely new crowd in town, but the Sweet 16 doesn’t have the drawing power to get a group of friends from back east to mark it on their calendar and make a guys’ weekend getaway out of it.

For the most part, the crowds in the books this week will be locals or those that just happen to be in Las Vegas visiting and not for college basketball. There will be no more showroom parties and ticket writers will not be asked to take shorter breaks and put in overtime.

The Madness of March has passed for Las Vegas, but there are still eight very good games on tap for Thursday and Friday. With so many underdogs covering over the weekend, maybe the cream will rise to the top more at this stage and we’ll see some more favorites come in.

It’s too bad the thousands of visitors who departed Sunday won’t be here to see it happen and get their money back.

What’s so amazing is despite most bettors losing, they all still had smiles and were having a good time through Sunday. It was almost as if they felt like their losses were the price of admission for the ultimate March Madness in Vegas trip.

The books are happy, the visitors left happy so all around it was a success for Las Vegas. Thanks for coming and we’ll be waiting to see y’all again next year.

McCormick on Big-12

“The disappointment of the Big 12 stands out to me. Respected as a top conference in the country, I was shocked at the Big 12’s performance. Conference tournament champion 3 seed Iowa State, a 13-point favorite loses to UAB. No. 3 seed Baylor, an 8-point favorite loses to Georgia State.

“Texas loses to Butler, Oklahoma State loses to Oregon. No. 2 seed Kansas goes down in round of 32 to Wichita State. West Virginia and Oklahoma still alive. I actually have Oklahoma in my final four so maybe they can bring the conference some respect with a Final Four appearance.”

Wynn’s John Avello

“Kansas was seeded too high, and besides Kentucky, all others are created equal. Even though Kentucky is the best, if they play another like their last, they will be in jeopardy.”

Great spot on Strip

As I was wandering down the Strip on Saturday for March Madness, I came upon a place called Tom’s Urban that was not only a great place to watch all the games, but also people watch. Located next to New York-New York where the old ESPNzone used to be, Tom’s Urban has a wide open window to see all the people walking down the Strip.

Perhaps even more impressive than having all my favorite beers on tap, the people viewing and all the games on, was the service. It’s one of those things bars take for granted, but is high on my list.

I was greeted by an outstanding bartender named Ross who made me feel as if my business mattered. I appreciated that and will be back just because of his ability to sell the place to me. Every bar has TV’s and cold beer, but service is another matter.

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

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