Betting on March Madness in Las Vegas – Expert Advice and a 2020 Guide to the Top Sportsbooks
You know it as the “National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament,” but did you also know it is sometimes referred to as “March Madness”?
Well, of course you did. You’re not Unfrozen Caveman Luddite, right?
Everybody knows it’s called March Madness, and everybody–from US Presidents to TV preachers–is already hard at work building their own brackets for the 67-game marathon that begins right after Selection Sunday with the First Four (March 17-18) and runs through to the NCAA Championship game April 6.
With the outcome of 67 games in the balance, March Madness is a bettors’ dream. And in Las Vegas, the question becomes not so much whether you will place a bet—because come on, you’re in Vegas–but where will you go to place your bets and watch the games.
Here’s a guide to how and where bet on 2020 March Madness in Las Vegas.
March Madness Betting Options
For those who think everything, including this sentence, is tl;dr, here’s the short version: If it moves, you can bet on it.
The longer version is this: There are moneyline bets (simple wagers on who will win a particular game), there are spread bets, where you bet on a team ”winning” a game if a points spread is included (think of it as an unofficial handicap). For example, if you have the Ravens and 16, that means if the Ravens miss winning the game by 15 points or less, the bookmaker pays you on your spread bet. Go team.
You can get more information about the how—and particularly the why– of sports handicapping right here.
Incidentally, a lot of spreads have a half a point added to them (called “the hook” in sportsbookese), just to make sure that there is no “tie.”
Then there are any number of parlay bets, which involve placing a bet on several successive games where the initial win is bet on the next in the series, and so on. As you can imagine, parlay bets can return significant chunks of what I believe is called money.
And then there are the proposition bets, usually just called prop bets. These can be as esoteric as betting on how many players in a particular basketball game will be wearing a shooting sleeve, or which player will be the first to get nutmegged.
Betting on March Madness in Vegas Sportsbooks
You, of course, don’t need anyone’s help in placing a bet at a sportsbook, but indulge me while I explain it all to those few people who have not been to a Las Vegas sportsbook before.
The sportsbook inside a casino is quite often the second-largest gambling area in the building. Why?
Because you need a lot of space for the crowds of bettors and even non-wagering fans who gather there to watch their favorite sport on one of the multitude of huge HD screens that usually hover above the heads of the ticket writers at the betting windows. Amidst those screens are odds displays for virtually every sporting event the sportsbook is taking wagers on.
In the public area are usually lots of comfortable chairs, with a tabletop nearby for perfecting your plans to Win All the Things. In some of the fancier sportsbooks, your seat is often at a small desk similar to library carrels, where you can enjoy relative privacy while still being able to catch the eye of a passing cocktail waitress.
Some of these wagering carrels even have small TV screens where you can watch the game you are betting on.
Incidentally, drinking for free in the casino’s sportsbook isn’t like it is on the gambling floor. You’ll typically need a drink ticket provided to you by your ticket writer when you placed your bet. Different sportsbooks have different policies.
One sportsbook may provide free drinks with no questions asked, while another may require you show the cocktail waiters your betting slips, while a third may demand you get drink tickets from your ticket writer—who may or may not be generous with them, depending on how big a tipper you are (yes, tip your ticket writer).
At the ticket window, seasoned sportsbooks bettors place their wagers using rotation numbers. A rotation number is (usually) a three-digit number assigned to each team and is usually displayed to the left of the team’s name on the odds screens. The system of rotation numbers has been in use for at least the past few decades, and it is designed specifically to eliminate mistakes in betting.
There is nothing wrong, however, with simply explaining to the ticket writer that you want to bet $100 that Michigan State will win versus Ohio State, but you could also say “844, moneyline for $100.” Just make sure you have the correct rotation number, since these days, incorrect rotation numbers are responsible for most betting errors.
Speaking of the ticket writer: Like you, he or she is a human being, capable of errors. Always check your bet ticket for errors—and do it before you leave the ticket window. Once you leave the betting window, your ticket is “action”—meaning it is live and working and nonexchangeable or refundable, whether it contains your correct bet or not.
Maybe it shows your wagered amount properly, but on the wrong team; maybe it shows your prop bet for the game’s total score for just the first half of the game instead of the final score, which you intended to bet on. It could be anything, but once you’ve stepped away, that is your wager. So regardless of how antsy the people in line behind you may be, take the few seconds to confirm that your betting slip shows exactly what you intended to bet on.
Two caveats: Unlike the casinos themselves, the sportsbooks are not usually open 24 hours a day. They usually open around 8am and close in the late evening (usually 10 or 11pm). Also, all of the sportsbooks in Las Vegas require you place bets using the house chips or cash. You cannot place a bet using a credit card. You know why.
Where to Bet on March Madness 2020 in Las Vegas
Since sports betting has risen to prominence among casinos in the US, the various race and sportsbooks have spent more than a dollar or two beefing up their offerings, and the bettor who likes a group experience while betting the spread can find any number of great places to do just that.
Here are some of the best Las Vegas sportsbooks to bet on March Madness 2020.
The Westgate’s sportsbook is not huge–it is Y-U-G-E. If you’re trying to find Waldo, odds are, he’s here somewhere. SuperBook is regularly touted as the largest sportsbook in Las Vegas, and sometimes as the largest in the world. The SuperBook video “wall” is 220 feet in width, and 18 feet high. Almost as big as the one I’ve got at home.
Incidentally, when Circa Las Vegas opens later in 2020 just down the street from the Westgate, it expects to assume the “World’s Largest Sportsbook” title. We’ll see, eh?
The SuperBook has been nonsmoking since 2016, by the way. You can check out all the deets about SuperBook at their website.
Mandalay Bay BetMGM Sportsbook
With the recent introduction of MGM’s mobile betting app to the company’s Nevada casinos, all of the sportsbooks are now called BetMGM at [fill in the MGM casino of your choice]. Naturally, you can still place your bets at the numerous ticket windows, and take advantage of the multiple HD screens and sportsbook atmosphere of Mandalay Bay.
The casino did a major remodel of their Race & Sportsbook in 2018, and the improvements made have turned it into one of the best on the Strip.
Mandalay Bay’s BetMGM Race & Sportsbook is nonsmoking. You can learn more about the BetMGM Sportsbook from their website.
South Point Sportsbook
Well, it may not be considered a Strip casino, but South Point is certainly on Las Vegas Boulevard—even if it is a bit south of McCarran airport in Henderson. If you’re coming in from southern California, it’s the one of the first casinos you pass as you’re entering the Las Vegas metropolitan area.
The sportsbook’s hundred seats might seem meager at first glance, but appearances can be deceiving—South Point has split the race book and the sportsbook into two entirely separate areas, so sports bettors don’t have to mingle with track-rats (and vice versa). Also, the sportsbook has two immense video walls to make sure you don’t miss any of the action. Advantage: You.
Incidentally, this is one of the few Las Vegas casino sportsbooks that remains open 24 hours a day. You can find additional info about the South Point Sportsbook by visiting their website.
Caesars Palace Race and Sports Book
The best word to use in describing the Caesars Palace Race and Sports Book is “cavernous.” Some gamblers at Caesars Palace have complained about the relative darkness of the casino floor, but you won’t hear complaints like that at the sportsbook—the low light makes it much easier to watch your game on one of the immense HD screens.
Just pick a seat in one of the 140 cushy “gentleman’s library grade” chairs facing a bank of 143” HD screens and begin planning your bets. With 13 betting windows, you’ll seldom have to wait in line. Incidentally, the atmosphere here during a big game is loud and intense af.
At least for now, the Caesars Palace Race and Sports Book permits smoking. Go here for more information and hours of operation.
Silver Sevens Hotel & Casino Race & Sports Book
This casino is a couple of l-o-n-g blocks off the Strip at the corner of Flamingo and Paradise, and while it’s not as glamorous as Strip resorts tend to be, it features a full-service Race & Sportsbook operated by William Hill. It’s also one of the few casino sportsbooks that regularly takes bets on international soccer league games.
Here’s some more info about the Race & Sports Book.
Sahara Las Vegas Sportsbook
Looking and feeling like a sport bar with its elevated tables and chairs, this sportsbook operated by William Hill has everything, from drinks and eats to 50 HD screens showing you all the action you might wish for. You can even use your mobile phone to place bets here, thanks to an easy-to-run William Hill app.
You can learn more with a visit to their webpage.
Mirage BetMGM Sportsbook
Like Mandalay Bay and other MGM properties, the sportsbook has been renamed the BetMGM sportsbook. The sportsbook at the Mirage is big, with huge HD monitors that are actually projection screens that show the action at four times the 1080 resolution of regular HD screens, so no squinting. Like other BetMGM sportsbooks, the Mirage sportsbook is smoke-free.
You can learn a bit more about the Mirage BetMGM Sportsbook with on their official website.
Last Caveats, I Swear…
Bear in mind that even those sportsbooks that permit smoking tend to frown on cigars and pipes.
More importantly, at least to the veteran bettor: With the advent in Las Vegas of sportsbook conglomerates like William Hill (six sportsbooks) and BetMGM (nine sportsbooks), the avid sports bettor has discovered that line shopping—finding the sportsbook with the best odds for whatever game you’re planning to bet on—is swiftly becoming a lost art.
Still, with additional effort, it is possible to find differences in the odds given on specific matches, so it pays—literally—to improve your line shopping skills.
Of course, if you change your mind and decide to watch the games from home—or the laundromat, or the autobody shop–you can always place a bet with any of our recommended online sportsbooks for Nevada.
Follow our March Madness blog for lots more information and advice before and during the tournament. And if you’re thinking of an early bet on who will win, check out our list of the top contenders for March Madness 2020.