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One week removed from a busy NASCAR weekend that also includes two college basketball conference tournaments, Las Vegas is at it again this week with another dynamic weekend offered to the public that no other city in the world can come close to matching.

It’s the first weekend of the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament where a segment of America travels from all corners the country to convene in their favorite sports book and let it all hang out.

“The first four days combine to create the second biggest weekend of the year for us,” said Station Casinos sports book director Jason McCormick. “I like to compare each of the four days of action to having four consecutive NFL Sundays.”

Beyond the gambling, the tournament has always held a special place in the hearts of fans everywhere and Las Vegas always brings out its best in shining fashion because of the massive crowds everywhere.

“The tournament encompasses the entire country and reaches out to almost everyone,” said LVH Super Book vice-president Jay Kornegay. “Whether you gamble or not, almost everyone has an opinion or interest in it one way or another, whether being affiliated with the state a certain school is at or just filing out a bracket in an office pool.

“What’s truly amazing about it is it’s one of the few events that is bigger at the beginning than at the end when the champion is ultimately crowned.”

That excitement and interest translates to massive four-day revenues, not just in the sports book, but all casino games, restaurants, bars and hotel occupancy.

The excitement isn’t just reserved for all of our wonderful visitors, either. Here in Las Vegas, the UNLV Rebels always create a buzz in the city with locals hoping to recreate some of the magic from the Jerry Tarkanian glory years.

“We’re expecting huge crowds at all of our properties for the Thursday night UNLV game,” said McCormick. “We got a perfect 6:50 p.m. (PDT) start time for us that will maximize the amount of people who want to watch the game with fellow Rebel fans and should help drive business everywhere in the casino before and after the game.”

With so many visitors expected for the weekend just about every casino will offer special accommodations that allow everyone to watch the game comfortably. Places like Station Casinos, Coast Resorts, South Point, Golden Nugget and the LVH are all opening up their showrooms, in addition to having the games on in or near the pit to keep those who want to play blackjack updated on what’s going on.

Cantor Gaming sports books will also be jumping with excitement in special locations at the Palms, the Joint at the Hard Rock and M Resort, not to mention the always entertaining and visually pleasing Lagasse’s Stadium at the Palazzo.

To ensure guests come back for the second, third and fourth day of the tournament, some sports books are offering food and drink specials along with contests.

“Beginning Tuesday all of our (Station) books will be offering $1 Buds and Hot Dogs throughout the tournament while games are being played,” said McCormick.

The $1 beers always go over well and in a day that never seems to end, like Thursday and Friday where the drinking starts early, keeping your drinking money on the cheap is a good idea. And of course, if you’re playing the games, be sure to get your free drink tickets when wagering.

Lucky’s sports books, including the Riviera; Leroy’s and Station Casinos are all offering great contests with a minimal entry fee to further add to the Las Vegas March Madness experience.

Perhaps the biggest and most successful contest over the last decade has been Station Casinos’ “Last Man Standing,” which requires each contestant to pick one game against the spread a day. Win your pick and advance to the next day until there is one man, or woman, standing at the end.

The entry fee is $25 and if you buy four, you get one free. They are guaranteeing $40,000 to the winner. Last year the pool rose to $49,200.

So who do the sports books ultimately want to come out of the NCAA Tournament that will maximize action through the betting windows? Is it better to a have Cinderella from a mid-major conference capture the fancy of everyone’s imagination or is it better for the house if all the heavyweight ranked teams advance through the field?

“It benefits our business if we have the name recognition,” said Lucky’s director of sports operations and public relations, Jimmy Vaccaro. “If we could get all No. 1 or No. 2 seeds into the Final Four, that would be ideal and attract the most action.”

We’ll find out who those Final Four teams are in a few weeks, but as for now, let the excitement begin.

My weekend will include stays at several different locations beginning Thursday at the South Point where they have 75 cent hot dogs every day.

Friday, I will be at the Wildfire on Sunset taking in some of those $1 Buds. Saturday’s a tough one because of St. Patrick’s Day, which will have me bouncing around from McMullen’s Pub to the Orleans all day and likely ending up at New York-New York’s Nine Fine Irishmen.

On Sunday, I’ll experience downtown at the Golden Nugget, Plaza and El Cortez. The El Cortez is a Station book and also has the $1 Bud special.

Enjoy the city and keep the word of mouth spreading news of what a great place Vegas is for the tournament. The more people who come, the merrier it will be.


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