MGM gets Hall of Fame player Bill Walton's approval

Mar 19, 2013 3:07 AM

March Madness is upon us.

Coming on the heels of the four major college basketball tournaments held in Las Vegas over the past 12 days, it’s icing on the cake. The buzz from the New Mexico Lobos versus the hometown UNLV Running Rebels in the Mountain West Conference finals at the Thomas & Mack had the whole town hopping.

Add to that number one-ranked Gonzaga packing them in at The Orleans Arena and the Pac 12 Conference tournament at the MGM Grand Garden and college basketball fans from all over the Western United States had quite a time here in the Valley of Dollars.

Gonzaga fans were lined up at 6:30 in the morning two weeks ago for a 10 a.m. opening of the box office. The early birds were hoping to scoop up tickets for the West Coast Conference title game that night. A week later Pac 12 fans partied long and hard at the MGM Grand with poolside extravaganzas and the pep bands playing in the hotel lobby.

Color commentator and Hall of Fame player Bill Walton gushed loud and long on television calling the MGM Grand tournament one of the best experiences he’s ever had as a player or an analyst.

Las Vegas is surely morphing into the big-time event center many had hoped for. Restaurants were jammed with guests. It is clearer than ever – visitors want a total experience that includes more than just gambling. Las Vegas delivers in a way no place else in the world can match.

Get ready for more excitement as the NCAA Tournament begins this week. Sports books will be mobbed with non-stop action.

We like New Mexico to go deep into the tournament. If UNLV can get past California Thursday, they have a real shot against a low-scoring Syracuse team who should advance. We shall see.

BINGO! We may be shouting that winning word when Green Valley Ranch opens its new bingo room in mid-May.

Once complete, the 400-seat room at the Henderson casino – with 312 seats in the non-smoking section – will offer eight daily sessions beginning at 9 a.m. The sessions will run every two hours on the odd hours until 11 p.m., so there will be plenty of action available no matter what your schedule is.

The large number of smoke-free seats is good news for us. And, what makes it even better is the smokers are in their own enclosed area.

Of course, GVR will be offering the same generous bingo promotions found at the other Station Casinos bingo rooms, including the Super Jumbo Bingo Progressive, which has been known to pay up to six figures when bingo is hit on a pre-determined number during the odd number cover-all.

The room will also offer the option to use either paper or electronics so those who cling to tradition will feel right at home.

Once the room is open, there will be bingo at all nine Station and Fiesta properties.

We remember when The Casino on West Sahara Avenue, with a small motel attached, became the Bingo Palace in the late 70s. It was one of the earliest (maybe the first?) casinos to market directly to Las Vegas locals. Folks who thought they knew everything about the gambling business believed Frank Fertitta Jr. had made a mistake with his off-the-Strip, nowhere-near-downtown location, and would not be in business very long.

Boy, were they wrong! The casino thrived. In the early 80s Fertitta remodeled, expanded and changed the name to Palace Station. Around 1990 he added a 21-story hotel tower and a parking garage. Two or three years later Boulder Station was conceived and the Station Casinos empire was launched.

GRAND OPENING: Just in time for March Madness, William Hill officially unveils its flagship downtown race and sports book at the Plaza Hotel and Casino today at 10 a.m.

Completely redesigned, the book features 75 television screens and includes 25 high- and low-top tables with seating, 37 carrels and 12 display boards.

There will be free pizza and a mini basketball giveaway for those in attendance.

Also, WH customers can join the new Rewards Club, which allows players to redeem points earned from sports play for complimentary wagers and other comps.

DERBY WATCH: A Kentucky Derby horse called Shakin it Up has been touted to us as one to keep an eye on. Currently he is getting little attention nationally. He goes in Sunday’s $800,000 Sunland Derby in New Mexico, and will be one of the favorites. We were told he is ready for the 1-1/8 mile test.

Shakin is trained by Bob Baffert, and top owner Mike Pegram owns a piece, so his connections are impeccable.

GOLDEN GIRLS: The National Golden Ladies Classic bowling tournament – for those 50 years and up – is being held at The Orleans this week. More than 90 entrants representing 20-plus states will vie for the top honors and a $2,000 first prize.

These girls take their bowling seriously. Janet Romig, a top contender, flew in from Florida over the weekend and brought no less than six bowling balls to make sure she has exactly what she needs when it’s time to knock over those pins.

After playing no less than five games in the morning and five in the afternoon each day we’re sure these gals will be creating a little madness of their own this week.

See you around town.

Eileen DiRocco is the owner and publisher of GamingToday, the bible for gaming news “you can bet on.” Contact Eileen at [email protected].

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