Las Vegas is a gambling mecca during March Madness

They would double the penalties for illegal gambling, but most importantly hold college campuses accountable for implementation of their own gambling policies.”

The general manager of Osage Systems Group, a Phoenix-based computer systems integrator, however, notes the tournament isn’t just about hoops.

“That’s really just the price of admission, and I’d give up 5 percent on pure entertainment value alone,” Curtis said.

Fanning the flames

Few sporting events inspire such willingness to wager — from office pools nationwide to elaborate Web-based gambling rings offshore. It’s all of the adrenaline-producing things that sort of get me geared up all at one time.”graphic

graphic“You get there and they sell hot dogs and beer for $1 and everyone’s got a stake in the outcome so there’s lots of screaming and yelling,” he said. “Everyone talks basketball and you all have a common bond. That compares with the $2.3 billion being wagered on sports games in Vegas.

“The bill (being considered now) does not do anything at all to address the problems of illegal gambling, which is the source of the problem on college campuses,” he said. “Others have put forth bills in the House and the Senate that we are very supportive of. I think it’s very possible.”

As for the hotels, which are booked well in advance, the cost of rooms during March Madness varies widely. That’s a 98 percent occupancy rate in its hotels.

“It’s a phenomenon that most people don’t realize,” he said. People come here to bet legally on games but also to watch them on the big screens. Regionals the Sweet 16 rounds — run from March 22 through 25 and the winners move on to the Final Four on March 31 and April 2.

Unlike most professional tournaments, men’s college basketball teams invited to the Big Dance get eliminated after their first loss. In the last 30 seconds of the games everyone gets out of their chairs and they’re screaming and yelling.”

They come to get rowdy. PT when Kentucky meets Holy Cross, and thousands of mostly male sports enthusiasts have descended upon Las Vegas in what has become an annual pilgrimage of sorts to the gambling capital of the world.

And unless the proposed ban on collegiate sports betting forces him to stop, he adds, his trip to casino country this year won’t be his last.

Many sports books also use parlays to boost excitement, allowing gamblers to bet on 2, 3 or 4 games at once. There is no second chance.

The house’s edge in the Las Vegas sports books is just 4.5 percent to 5 percent. “There’s this buzz in Vegas that parallels the buzz of March Madness and it’s like being high all the time; like being a little kid when you can’t wait for Christmas. For big spenders, the high-end Bellagio costs $399 and The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, another NCAA hotspot, charges $329.

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Leonardi, however, said the expense is easily justified.

“The thing with Vegas is that you can always rationalize it by saying you might win more than you spend,” he said, noting his trips typically set him back about $1,000, including food, lodging and gambling money. “Our activity pales in comparison to even office pools,” Feldman said.

Regardless of what happens with sports wagering in the coming years, however, Leonardi said he can’t recommend hitching a ride down to Las Vegas during March Madness this year highly enough.

“The sports books come up with many ingenious ways to get you to put your money down,” Curtis said. “We use this as an opportunity and a place for a bunch of different professionals to all get together. Combinations make it harder to win, but they also dramatically increases the returns 6 to 1 odds on a 3-game parlay, for example.

Unregulated gambling on sports events including office pools, wagers made through illicit bookies and online betting accounts for an estimated $360 billion a year, Feldman said. If you can’t watch the games in person I don’t think there’s a better place to be than Vegas.”

The average visitors stays for 3 to 4 days and earmarks just under $600 for gambling.

“This could be the last March Madness if the legislation moves through and it passes,” Curtis said. The MGM Grand, for example, charges about $130 per night, The Mirage closer to $279 and New York New York will set you back $145 for each night you stay. “It’s relatively inexpensive for how much fun it is.”

Hoops on the Hill

That fun, however, may be about to hit a brick wall.

Congress is set to consider legislation this year that would outlaw betting on all collegiate sports nationwide.

“I’m pretty much committed that it is going to be something I do for the rest of my life,” he said. In many ways it replicates actually being at the game.”

“I’ve gotten people wrapped up into it who aren’t even basketball fans,” Leonardi said. Fans decked out in jerseys and baseball hats from their alma mater bet on everything from total points scored (over and unders) to which of two players will sink a 3-point shot first.

Point spreads help to fan the flames especially in the first and second rounds when some of the better teams get paired with low-ranked competitors. “They’ve been talking about this since early last year and a bill’s been reintroduced. They say if it’s going to happen at all it will happen this year. But mostly they come to cheer their teams on to victory with 200,000 of their closest friends and, of course, to put their money where their mouth is.

Anthony Curtis, publisher of Las Vegas Advisor, a consumer’s newsletter for casino enthusiasts, said that’s what makes it exciting for fans who visit Nevada, the only state in the nation where sports wagering is legal.

graphicThere are no clear estimates for how many NCAA fans flock to Sin City during March Madness, but Vegas packs in some 260,000 visitors on any given day of the year. We start looking forward to it as soon as we recover from the depression of it being over.”

He notes, too, that from a gambling standpoint, “it’s a great value.”

“This is Christmas for grown-ups,” said Gene Leonardi, a 37-year-old resident of University Park, Md., who flew in for the festivities Wednesday for the fourth consecutive year. “You have to pick who you think is going to win given the point spreads, but people still tend to bet with their hearts.”

NEW YORK (CNNfn) – It’s March 15 and the muted noise that emanates from the slot machines blanketing Sin City just met its match.

Tip off time for the storied NCAA basketball tournament is 9:20 a.m. “You can make a wager and watch on the big screens. There’s this lexicon in place at the outset and it’s very much like a narcotic. Bookies set the spreads as high as 30 points per game to even out the odds. On the standard wager ratio a $10 payout on $11 in bets that’s just 55 cents for every $11 won.

graphicAlan Feldman, a spokesman for MGM Mirage, which owns six major hotels in Las Vegas including the Bellagio, MGM Grand, Golden Nugget and The Mirage, however, said it’s important that lawmakers pass effective legislation.. Those who bet on the favored team, in those cases, only win if that team covers the spread, or wins by more than 30 points.

“There’s a lot of activity generated during this time of year in the sports books,” said Rob Powers, a spokesman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. They come for the cheap beer. Nowhere but Vegas, however, does the frenzy resonate at such a fever pitch.Click here for a printable tournament bracket

For the sports books, where bookies operate inside the casinos, March Madness is second only to the Super Bowl. “It’s one of the most popular sporting events that there is throughout the year. “It’s awfully fun.”

Shall we dance?

March Madness, as the men’s collegiate basketball tournament is known, begins March 15 with 64 teams across the country squaring off in the first and second rounds