Only Vegas can handle, UFC, NASCAR and rugby
March 08, 2016 3:01 AM
by Micah Roberts
I hate to brag about my city of Las Vegas, but last weekend was the perfect example of how truly great it is and how it stands alone in its own class.
What other city in the world could handle a USA Sevens Rugby tournament, a college basketball conference tournament, a UFC title bout with one of its most popular fighters and then just for good measure, throw in a couple of NASCAR races all in one weekend?
The answer is pretty simple. No place! Between all the rooms and staffing at all the properties that are always ready for a busy weekend, Las Vegas handled all of those events with pizzazz and style in a flawless manner that had me feeling proud about how diverse my city is.
Just a NASCAR race alone is enough to send any other city into a panic, but we’re so efficient in Vegas with guest service, we can put the races and other major events on our shoulders and then take on even more.
The sportsbooks were loving the action as well, or at least till Saturday night’s UFC fights at the MGM Grand where champions Holly Holm and Conor McGregor each lost. Miesha Tate (+230) took down Holm in her first title defense since beating Ronda Rousey and Nate Diaz (+400) handed McGregor his first UFC loss and third of his career. The effects of both underogs winning hurt books all across the Valley.
“We got crushed with McGregor losing,” said MGM Resorts sportsbook hub manager Jeff Stoneback, “but fortunately we won on the other eight bouts to absorb the loss and came out almost break even. The loss on McGregor alone was almost as bad as our losses were when Rousey lost.”
The MGM books take parlays on the fights and they were helped by the huge pool of cash in that category not cashing. Other sportsbooks that don’t book parlays to the fights didn’t get off so easy and found themselves taking a beating with both underdogs winning. Just like in boxing, the majority likes to side with the underdog in big fights because they can bet a little and win a lot.
Fiji won the USA Sevens Rugby event over Australia in the final. William Hill books had Fiji as the second choice to win at 9-5. South Africa was the 7-5 betting favorite.
The West Coast Conference Tournament was going on at the Orleans Arena and runs through Tuesday night with the championship game, and, of course, betting is allowed. It’s a nice feather in Las Vegas’ cap to be able to provide such a fun place for the basketball fans to support their school while also having some vacation fun.
In addition to the WCC, this week conference tournaments for the WAC, Mountain West and Pac-12 will begin. The Pac-12 will be playing its games at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
As for the NASCAR race, over 100,000 people were in town and they wagered on everything they could find with odds attached to their sport, but Stoneback said the write (action) at his 10 books across the Strip didn’t meet expectations.
“It wasn’t like a few years ago when it was NASCAR crazy everywhere,” said Stoneback, “It was kind of flat to last year and with so many other things going on, the NASCAR crowd didn’t stand out as much.”
On Saturday night it was almost hard to tell there was a NASCAR race in town. Everywhere you looked you saw Irish flags draped over the backs of McGregor fans and then there were the big hulking Rugby fans with huge calves. The colors of NASCAR fans just blended in.
This past weekend is just a further testament to why Las Vegas can’t be beat. College basketball doesn’t like us posting lines on their sport, but they flock to our city anyway just because they know the city is more of a draw than their tournament and they want to fill seats. A Pac-12 Tournament at the Staples Center in Los Angeles didn’t draw, but when Las Vegas is attached to it, everyone from Washington to Arizona is all-in.
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. Twitter: @MicahRoberts7 Email: MicahRoberts@GamingToday.com.