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March Madness party in Las Vegas will get bigger in ‘23

Updated March 20, 2022 - 9:04 am

It doesn’t get much better than getting together with a bunch of buddies in one of Clark County’s 99 sportsbooks to absorb the March Madness hoops fest on big-screen LED televisions.

There’s a generous mix of ballpark food, beer, celebrating winning tickets, mocking opponents, commiserating over the bad-beat losses and generally having a good time with friends or with people you don’t even know coming from all corners of the country.

Thanks to competition, the city’s sportsbook product has climbed to new heights. For four days centered around the weekend, the first rounds of the NCAA college basketball tournament have become the best-bet sporting event on the calendar, even surpassing the Super Bowl in popularity because of its multiple games over a longer period of time.

Can it get any better?

Actually, it can — and will — next year.

A year from now, a chunk of the middle rounds of the tournament — the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matchups — will be played at T-Mobile Arena on the Strip in the West Regional. That means Las Vegas will get all that visitation from the first round on the first four days of the 2023 tournament and three games over the next weekend. The winner of the West Regional will go to the Final Four the following week in Houston.

“There is no better place than Las Vegas where you can bring together people like you can for March Madness or any other major sporting event,” said Brendan Bussmann, director of government affairs for Las Vegas-based Global Market Advisors. “And that includes sports wagering. While sports betting expands across the United States, it still comes back to our destination for events like those three weeks of basketball.”

Amanda Belarmino, an assistant professor at the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality at UNLV, concurs.

“Even with the legalization of sports betting throughout the U.S., Las Vegas offers a unique venue for March Madness,” she said. “The casinos offer an unrivaled viewing experience for basketball fans, where they can easily watch all of the games in one place with access to a variety of food and beverage options.”

After next year’s opportunity to host a regional bracket of the tournament, there’s still one more goal the city should aspire to achieve. It needs to lay claim to the Final Four, the last three games of the NCAA college basketball season.

The Final Four is reserved for big stadiums — and Las Vegas now has one.

There’s no doubt that the event programming group at Allegiant Stadium has made inquiries about hosting the Final Four. Right now, there is a waiting list.

This year, it’s at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, a somewhat comforting detail as the NCAA apparently had no misgivings about allowing a venue with a casino company brand name on it, just a few blocks away from Harrah’s New Orleans, in a state that recently legalized sports wagering, to be a host.

Next in line is NRG Stadium in Houston, followed in 2024 by State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, where the Arizona Cardinals collaborate with BetMGM for an onsite stadium sportsbook. Then comes the Alamodome in San Antonio in 2025, and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis in 2026.

There’s no doubt that Allegiant Stadium should be in line for a Final Four role, especially in light of its credentials as the host for Super Bowl LVIII in 2024.

Let’s not forget the positive impact these special events will have on the local tourism economy.

With room rates averaging well above the 2021 average on the first weekend of March Madness this year, it’s conceivable that resorts, restaurants and other tourism attractions will see a major boost when these events occur. And so will gaming.

Credit Las Vegas as the “sports capital of the world” and Allegiant Stadium as a great multipurpose venue for that boost.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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