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Madness: It was crazy!

Mar 20, 2001 6:48 AM

Packed. Wall-to-wall. Jammed.

Those words best describe Las Vegas sports books over the first four days of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Seats were hard to find, wagering was heavier than expected.

"One guy asked me, ‘How early do I have to get here to get a seat?’ I told him we open at 7 a.m.," said Mary Anne Masaitis, Harrah’s sports book manager. "People were grabbing seats early and saving them. We were jammed. It’s always crazy (during the first two rounds)."

Leroy’s sports book manager Bob Smith said, "Crowds were fantastic. It stayed that way all weekend."

Some books had 10 bettors deep in line between games. Some books had hot dog stands. Some had March Madness parties.

The forecast for the third and fourth-rounds is no different.

The books may stay crowded this weekend because the college bet ban bill is on the docket in Washington, and UCLA and USC are still alive.

"Most of our business comes from Southern California," Smith said. "Normally, those teams don’t do as well."

Masaitis said USC and UCLA games are playing on a bad day — that being Thursday.

"California bettors won’t be able to make it up here and bet that day," she said. "It would be different if it was played Friday or Saturday."

Smith said the bet ban is not on book managers’ or bettors’ minds as much as you’d think.

"This is just a tremendous time of the year," Smith said. "I don’t think (the possible ban) played into why we were so busy. If you like college basketball, it doesn’t get better than this."

"Nobody really asked us about (the ban)," Masaitis said. "They’re probably just enjoying their trip. We have information out (in the book) about it."

As for the betting, favorites went 11-5 against the spread in the second round (6-2 Sunday). They only went 15-17 in the first round (6-10 on Thursday).

"Thursday was a real good day for us," Masaitis said. "After that, we did all right for the rest of the weekend."

The news was about the same at Leroy’s.

"(Our books) did OK," said Smith referring to Leroy’s books such as the Tropicana, San Remo and Riveria. "Our players like to play favorites. When we had upsets, that helped us."

How much money was wagered compared to past years?

"I would say it was a little higher — but what percentage, it’s still a little early," Smith said.

Masaitis noticed a trend with totals.

"(Bettors) seem to think everything was going to go under," she said. "Parlay cards were real big. The cards did well (for us)."

According to Smith, totals were played, but mostly in parlays.

Smith also complimented CBS —TV’s coverage.

"CBS is doing a great job with scores in the top left corner," he said. "And when you wanted to go to that other game, they took you there."

CBS is televising the entire NCAA men’s tournament.

Futures also are being played by bettors. Currently, Duke is a favorite to win the national title. Stanford and Michigan State are next at 4-1.

Duke is a 1-5 favorite to win the East Region and go to the Final Four. Stanford is 4-5 to win the West.