The first weekend of March Madness is one of the most popular times for a sports fan and bettor to be in Las Vegas. However, it's not the best week for everyone. The weeks leading up to March Madness are some of the best weeks for gamblers in Las Vegas.
Before the Madness some of the smaller basketball conference tournaments start in early March with the bulk of the tournaments taking place the week leading up to selection Sunday. During the week of March 5-12 there will be college basketball games from the time you wake up until you go to sleep (or go out for the night).
While March Madness has gone mainstream, conference tournament week has become the most popular week for sports bettors and serious fans in Las Vegas. This crazy week of college hoops still flies under the radar of many leisure fans. More importantly, the week flies under the radar of casino operators.
There are more opportunities to wager on hoops than any week of the year and the sportsbook operators will be prepared. However, the marketing departments aren't as concerned with the action in the sportsbook. They're focused on the week after, when hundreds of thousands of people will descend on Las Vegas. This limits advertising and marketing for the week which keeps prices and hotel occupancy down.
Conference tournament week will never be as popular in Las Vegas as the first weekend of March Madness for a few reasons. The majority of people who enjoy the tournament want to see upsets by the best small college teams over the big college teams. The smaller tournaments that the serious fans and bettors may see as a wagering opportunity can be seen as minutia for the mainstream fan.
Additionally, the first weekend of March Madness traditionally occurs while many colleges are on spring break. This free time makes it easier for people to visit Las Vegas for the week and weekend. Sometimes, like this year, St. Patrick’s Day falls at the same time as the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. As awesome as the first weekend of March Madness can be, it can also feel suffocating with so many people around.
Conference Tournaments In Las Vegas
Wagering on college hoops all day and night is a dream for basketball bettors. Being able to watch all of the basketball games in one room is enough for some people but Las Vegas takes this a step further. During conference tournament weeks in Las Vegas you have the unique opportunity to watch the games in person that you’ve bet on.
There are four (!) NCAA basketball conference tournaments held in Las Vegas. Two of those tournaments are held in casinos, one is just outside of a casino and the other is held on the campus of UNLV. Yes, you can wager on all of the games.
The West Coast Conference (WCC) tournament takes place at The Orleans Arena from March 3-7. This usually isn’t the most popular tournament in Las Vegas but that’s changed this year. Thanks to a fantastic year for Gonzaga ticket availability is tighter than usual. Not coincidentally, prices to get into the tournament are more expensive than normal.
The Pac-12 tournament takes place from March 8-11. This tournament used to be held at MGM Grand Garden Arena but his year it will move across the street to the T-Mobile Arena. This will allow a few thousand more people to see the games which have sold out in previous years.
Once the WCC moves out of The Orleans, the WAC moves in for their conference tournament. This tournament will take place from March 9-11. UNLV once again will host the Mountain West tournament takes place at the Thomas & Mack Center from March 8-11.