The first weekend of March Madness in Las Vegas is special. It’s not just another weekend of college basketball. It’s more than four consecutive days of non-stop college basketball games to legally wager on.
The games take place from the moment guests wake up until it’s time to party in the evening. Watching and wagering on all of the games is great, but the weekend is much more than just basketball.
In addition to the hoops action, the first weekend of March Madness falls during Spring Break for many colleges around the country. This year, St. Patrick’s Day also falls during the same weekend.
This is one of the busiest weekends of the year in Las Vegas. The city is packed with visitors enjoying the gorgeous weather, great parties, and college basketball action in the sportsbook.
Watching games during 1st weekend of March Madness
Watching the NCAA basketball tournament isn’t as easy as it used to be. Basketball bettors and fans can’t simply just grab a seat in a sportsbook or bar. The combination of visitors makes for a great Vegas experience but it also offers some challenges for college basketball fans and bettors.
It’s still possible to watch college basketball in most Vegas sportsbooks for free. You’ll just have to arrive early (before tip-off of the first game) to snag a seat.
That’s not always possible since some sportsbooks, like the CG Technologies sportsbook at The Venetian, reserve seats for their biggest gamblers. Some sportsbooks, like Caesars Palace, sell seats in and around for those willing to pay fees. Check with a host or players club to see if comps are available or if points can be used for a seat.
Paying to watch the games for the first weekend of March Madness isn’t new. Casinos, bars, and restaurants have been throwing March Madness watch parties for more than five years. These parties can be as simple as a chair with TV screens. Others may offer special parties with casino gaming, traditional and video games, a full bar and more. There are even private “Man Caves” for groups with multiple TVs, games, and food and drink service.
Due to the popularity of viewing parties over the years, the prices continue to increase. What started as $25 for a day of cheap beer and a seat to watch the games has turned into a nearly $500 weekend per person for many parties.
Since the per day prices this year are often over $100 per day, many of the parties only last from Thursday, March 15 through Saturday, March 17. To be fair, many tourists leave on Sunday and wouldn’t need to pay full price for a party on the last day of the weekend. Visitors will be on their own to watch the games Sunday, March 18.
Finding a March Madness party
The March Madness In Las Vegas group on Facebook is a great resource for finding places to watch games during the first weekend of March Madness. Many of the members have been to Las Vegas for the big weekend and offer insight and information on how to make the best of the weekend. They’re usually good for a little trash talking too.
March Madness parties on the Vegas Strip can be awesome but also a bit expensive.
One of the most popular parties to watch the NCAA Tournament has been Hops and Hoops at the Cosmopolitan. The Belmont ballroom becomes a hoops haven with twelve 22’x13′ HD projection screens, on-site sports book from CG Technologies, hardwood court with regulation basketball hoop, and bar games like Golden Tee. A three-day pass includes open bar and costs $475. It’s a great party but might be pricey.
The best values in Las Vegas are often found off the Vegas Strip
Hoops Central at the International Theater inside the Westgate is one of the best March Madness viewing environments. The theater has 1,500 seats filled with sports bettors. General seating is first come first served but this year they’re offering reserved seating for $25 a day. The reservation comes with one beer.
South Point has a free viewing party in their second-floor ballroom. There’s plenty of seating but it’s first come, first served and not reserved. The room has multiple large projection screens, betting stations, and some of the best lines in Las Vegas. Drink specials include buckets of beer for $16 and there’s food available.
El Cortez in downtown Las Vegas also has a free party. The Fiesta Room has plenty of general admission seats. They also have $3 hot dogs and Budweiser for hoops fans and bettors on a slim budget. The sportsbook at El Cortez is operated by Station Casinos.