With No Clear NCAA Favorite, Vegas Sportsbooks Writing Bountiful 2017 March Madness Story

Posted on: March 17, 2017, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: March 17, 2017, 11:23h.

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is underway with the first round tipping off on Thursday night at four locations across the country. And in Las Vegas, the sportsbooks are taking bets on every single game.

Crowds are packing in Las Vegas sportsbooks for March Madness, and without a clear favorite, the NCAA tournament is shaping up to be a strong year for oddsmakers. (Image: Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

An influx of bettors descend on the Mojave Desert each March in hopes of capitalizing off their bracket predictions, and this year casinos say they’re experiencing an increase in betting thanks to the tight competition at the top and no real clear-cut favorite to win the title.

Across the Strip, sportsbook directors are reporting higher than normal betting action.

“It’s definitely been the busiest out of the last three years,” Frank Kunovic, the director of specialty games at Caesars Entertainment told the Las Vegas Sun. “We’re sold out,” he said referencing his sportsbook viewing parties. “In fact, everything’s sold out. It’s been very, very busy.”

No Favorite, No Problem

Entering the tournament, Duke was a popular pick among sports bettors despite their No. 2 seed. The Westgate SuperBook put the Blue Devils at 5-1 to deliver coach Mike Krzyzewski his sixth NCAA Division I championship, but has since grew to 7-1.

Defending champion Villanova is the top overall seed, but books put them at around 8-1 to repeat. The Wildcats showed some holes in the first half against No. 16 Mount St. Mary’s, but played nicely in the second to win by 20.

North Carolina has emerged as the favorite at the Westgate, as bettors are taking the Tar Heels. The SuperBook has them at 5-1.

Kansas, another usual suspect for a deep March Madness run, is at 6-1. Gonzaga has odds of 9-1, followed by Kentucky and Arizona (10-1), and UCLA and Louisville (15-1).

With a slew of programs more than capable of cutting down nets at the Final Four, Vegas sportsbooks see no signs of slowing as the round-robin action continues.

“The money’s spread out all over the place,” Stratosphere sportsbook director Ed Malinowski told ESPN.

Main Court Tickets

While the college basketball games are happening across the country, and the Final Four will be contested at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona, the nucleus of the tournament is Las Vegas.

Sports betting is restricted to Nevada due to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) passed in 1992. Regardless of the law, nearly $10.4 billion will be wagered through offshore websites and underground bookies.

The legal action, however, is predominantly in the Silver State. Countless parties are scheduled throughout the month in Vegas, and sportsbooks and casino theaters have been made over to cater to basketball fans.

Viewing parties, drink and food specials, and a host of entertainment are all on tap for this weekend. But with an influx of visitors, some seats are coming at a costly price.

For instance, the “Hoops Mayhem” special at Caesars Palace’s Vista Cocktail Lounge requires a $150 per person minimum for a bar seat. A four-person table starts at $750.

For the more budget-conscious Vegas visitor, Fremont is always the place to go. The El Cortez has $2 drinks and $2 hot dogs, plus free admission.