Top 5 Places to Watch March Madness in Las Vegas
Top 5 Places to Watch March Madness in Las Vegas
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Top 5 Places to Watch March Madness in Las Vegas

March Madness 2017 Special Report: Top 5 Places to Watch the NCAA Games in Las Vegas

By Chris Sharp, Certified 12-Time Veteran of Las Vegas March Madness

“Where is the best place in Las Vegas to watch the NCAA March Madness games?”

No doubt this is a question being asked by thousands upon thousands of fans descending (or thinking about descending) on Las Vegas for the 2017 NCAA Tournament.

Indeed, the question of where to watch March Madness in Vegas is a momentous one, with far-reaching implications into every corner of our society.  Research conducted by the American Gaming Association shows that 40 million Americans will fill out at least one NCAA bracket, and at least $9 billion will be wagered on the NCAA Tournament—more than double what’s bet on the Superbowl.

Furthermore, due to the most unfortunate mortality of the human race, there are a limited number of times that any human being can experience the joy (and pain) of attending Las Vegas during the NCAA Tournament.  Some people, tragically, may only make the trip once or twice in their whole lives.

You want, no, you need to do this Vegas March Madness thing right in 2017.  Especially if you are the one charged with planning the trip for you and your friends, you may be feeling more pressure than a 19-year old kid from McNee State at the line with two free throws, 1 second left on the clock, your squad is down by one, and if you make both throws McNee State just beat Duke.

The good news is: we are here to help you come up clutch when choosing the best place in Las Vegas to watch March Madness!

Criteria Used to Judge the Best Places in Vegas to Watch NCAA March Madness

We have chosen to rank the best places in Vegas to watch March Madness on the following seven criteria:

  • Crowd Control: ridiculously long lines at a venue’s sportsbook can impact your ability to make bets on time, resulting in decreased enjoyment for you and your homies.
  • Service Staff: some casinos have a lot better service than others.
  • Value for your Dollar: it’s all good to do some splurging while in Vegas for the Tourney but some of these places are worse than Disneyland when it comes to gouging you once they have you “on the inside.”
  • Television Considerations: watching the first two days of the NCAA Tournament is obviously the best use of a television ever invented; but if a place does not have enough televisions or big enough televisions, or the televisions are placed improperly, supreme annoyance can result.
  • Other Amenities: at some point you are going to have to do something other than drink beer and watch basketball; you’ll need food, for instance, or you may want to play blackjack.
  • Special Events Factor: March Madness viewing parties have become all the rage in Vegas and can be a blast, but can also be a bit overdone if you are a Tournament Purist.
  • Pedigree: tradition still counts for something.

A Word to the Wise: Don’t Rely Exclusively on the In-Person Sportsbook

Now before we get into the rankings, we need to briefly mention something very important if in fact you are planning on placing bets on the March Madness games while in Vegas:

Make sure you have an online sports betting option in your arsenal!

The lines at the sportsbooks in Vegas during March Madness have become, in many cases, utterly outrageous.  Even at the places with the most betting counters and quickest-working staff, the sheer number of people trying to place bets can endanger your ability to get your bets in before tipoff. Some March Madness in Vegas veterans will place their bets the night before; the smarter ones will have other options available to them.

Yes, I know, there is nothing like holding a printed ticket in your hand and picking up actual cash in person face-to-face (with a big old grin on your face), but believe me, an online wagering account available will come in handy if your chosen venue’s sportsbook starts to look like a Depression-era bread line…which it just might considering the rapidly-growing popularity of going to Vegas for the NCAA Tournament. Sites such as Bovada will give you instant access to betting lines rather than waiting in one, and if you’re faced with a #1 seed utterly blowing out a 16, you can try your hand at their “live betting” options.

Don’t get caught in the line!

The Encore

  • Crowd Control: The Encore, like most things Wynn, likes to portray a paradoxical, charming air of what we might call “accessible exclusivity.” The March Madness viewing party, hosted in The Encore Showroom, is a great example of the Wynn’s trademark vibe.  It’s free admission if you’re a guest of the hotel, but you have to know about it to go to it, and they don’t bother with advertising it too heavily.  The result is a private-feeling March Madness viewing party that gives you space and makes you feel VIP.
  • Service Staff: The service staff at the Wynn properties including The Encore is one of the best in the business. The people in the purple jackets treat you right from A to Z (unless you become belligerent in which case they will kick you to the curb).
  • Value for your Dollar: Solid value all around at The Encore and this includes the March Madness viewing party. As noted, it’s free for guests of the hotel, and reasonably-priced for all others.  They also run some nice food and drink specials.
  • Television Considerations: Plenty of firepower in this department, and since it’s not as crowded as some other venues, you don’t need to call out “down in front!” 50 times per game.
  • Other Amenities: Need somewhere to spend your winnings? The Encore / Wynn complex boasts retail tenants such as Ferrari, Brioni, and Givenchy.  The buffet at the Wynn, meanwhile, is one of the best meals we’ve ever had (that’s why we eat the equivalent of four meals per buffet visit).
  • Special Events Factor: The Encore / Wynn keeps its own social calendar. “La Reve” is the long-running in-house stage show.  The Encore is a popular spot for DJs and other Party People.
  • Pedigree: The Encore is not an old hotel, but it seems destined to gain in popularity with regard to March Madness viewing options.

Hoops and Hops at the Cosmopolitan

In just a few short years, the March Madness viewing party at the Cosmopolitan has risen to the very top of list for most people. In 2017, the hotel is moving the event from The Chelsea to The Belmont. According to the website, the two venues have the same square footage, but it’s a little unclear now if the 2017 event will live up to the epic reputation it’s earned. One killer point about the new venue – it’s adjacent to the pool. So, if you’re a guest of the hotel, you could party at Hoops and Hops, retire to your private cabana at the pool for a bit, then come back for the buzzer-beater finish.

  • Crowd Control: This place is straight-up huge, a veritable stadium, but we did nonetheless encounter some issues with crowding. The line at the sportsbook was offensive, but we hope to see this problem alleviated this year, as the staff have said they’re going to add more betting windows. And, be sure to get there early if you have a few people and all want to sit together. We arrived at about 8:00am one year, and the line was about a quarter of a mile long.
  • Service Staff: Good! Bartenders are efficient and professional.  And they have servers going around to the seats so that you don’t have to move if you don’t want to. There are zero complaints from us on access to alcoholic beverages at this place.
  • Value for your Dollar: The ticket to get in is pricey ($200 for one day, $350 for a two-day pass). Once you’re in, you can see why it’s pricey, because they’ve really gone all out; you also get unlimited access to the open bar.  The ticket will get you into the Marquee Dayclub, as well, if you’re into that kind of thing. However, the fact that they have decided to “upsell” access to the upper levels of the stadium was a bit perturbing from a value standpoint. You’ll immediately notice when entering that those couches look really comfortable – yeah, they’re $375 per person (you’ll also get premium beverages, priority entry, and an your very own server). Want to splurge and get a couch that comfortably sits three people? Too late. Start planning a little earlier for 2018.
  • Television Considerations: The TVs at this place are ridiculous. Ridiculously awesome, that is. It all starts with the Moby Dick-sized, multi-sided beast that hangs from the ceiling, over the bar.  Dozens of other TVs confront you from every angle, delivering delicious sensory overload. When we first read the event description, it told us of twelve 22 x 13 TVs. Pretty fucking small TVs, we thought. No, they’re not 22 x 13 inches – they’re 22 x 13 FEET!
  • Other Amenities: They bring blackjack tables into the March Madness viewing party, providing a special area in case you get the itch. That is clever. They’ve also got half-court basketball, shuffleboard, and arcade-like entertainment. The food here is also quite good.  Placement of the hotel in the center of the Strip is another nice aspect.
  • Special Events Factor: Definitely when you visit the March Madness viewing party at The Cosmopolitan you have the feeling of being at a special event. As noted, they go all out, and we expect they will continue to increase their investment in this event each and every year as other casinos seek to catch up with the sheer “spectacle-ness” practiced here.
  • Pedigree: The Cosmopolitan was one of the first hotels to fully commit to making the March Madness viewing party a big part of their corporation’s Q1 investment activities; they get props for being a first mover and a trendsetter.

One of the big screens at The Cosmopolitan

Carmine’s Italian Restaurant (Inside Caesar’s Palace)

  • Crowd Control: If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like to fight for a seat to watch the game, Carmine’s can be a great fit. Known for their “family style” serving policies, you and your friends can get your own table and watch the games right there in the restaurant.  It’s a more private experience, and far more low-key than many of the other March Madness Las Vegas options.
  • Service Staff: The servers here are not new on the job. They are pros’ pros.  They take pride in bringing you as much food and drink as you can handle and some good conversation in the process.
  • Value for your Dollar: Depending how much you want to drink, you can certainly rack up a nice bill, but we wouldn’t say they gouge you. The one thing with regard to watching the games here, though, is that you should prepare to spend consistently if you plan on occupying a table for numerous hours.
  • Television Considerations: Not nearly the amount of “sound and fury” as at a bigger venue – the place is definitely more a restaurant than a sports bar. If you’re not careful, you might have a conversation with someone at your table, and actually be able to hear what is said.
  • Other Amenities: Food is delicious. Drinks are stiff.  And Caesar’s Palace is just outside the door.  Here are some Yelp reviews about Carmine’s if you want such a thing.  Keep in mind of course that some people who write Yelp reviews are Haters, with deep-seated personal issues.
  • Special Events Factor: Carmine’s caught a good amount of press attention in 2015 by offering a $50,000 March Madness package for up to 25 people to watch the games in the proverbial “Ultimate Man Cave.” They also have a basketball hoop at Carmine’s.  So yeah, they do stuff, good stuff, to treat March like the very special month it is.
  • Pedigree: Caesar’s Palace remains the most classic and most storied hotel on the Las Vegas Strip.

South Point

  • Crowd Control: This place is a zoo! If you like to get all animalistic and throw yourself headlong into The Madness, then, South Point needs to be on your short list.  They dedicate their massive Special Events room to The Tourney and it is more or less every man or woman for themselves, with free admission and open seating.  Want to try to “save a seat for your friend”?  Good luck with that, buddy, now step aside before I shank you with the business end of a Number 2 Pencil.
  • Service Staff: They’re not waiting on you hand and foot, but they’re friendly enough, and they’re willing to put up with a lot…suffice it to say it’s hard to get kicked out of this place.
  • Value for your Dollar: Excellent values can be found here. After all, South Point is off The Strip, where land is cheaper and casinos have to give bargains to bring in customers.  This place is a stellar option for younger and/or cash-strapped Madness Aficionados such as college kids on spring break.
  • Television Considerations: No expense has been spared when equipping South Point with the technology it needs to broadcast March Madness nonstop at a high volume.
  • Other Amenities: It’s off The Strip, which is problematic for some people who want easier access to the other hotels. Pool is a scene.  Spa is well-regarded and reasonably-priced.
  • Special Events Factor: South Point has stacked a lot of its chips on creating a memorable March Madness experience. Frankly, they’ve done a hell of a job.  This event isn’t for you if you have any degree of snootiness inside your soul, but if you want to party your butt off while wearing a ratty T-shirt and sweatpants, South Point works well.
  • Pedigree: Many locals in Vegas come to this casino which gives it a good amount of credibility.

MGM Grand Sportsbook

  • Crowd Control: Without a doubt one of the most robust sportsbooks in all of Las Vegas, and a classic hotel casino, but extremely crowded on the “lower levels” during March Madness. You’ll definitely be rubbing shoulders with everyone and their mother but that can be fun, remember?  You love being among your fellow humans, remember?  If you don’t remember that aspect of yourself, upgrade to The Strip’s only “Sportsbook Skybox” and watch The Madness in luxury.
  • Service Staff: If you’ve upgraded to The Skybox, it’s all about you. If you’re down here with us among the hoi polloi, practice your tipping skills to get the attention of the ridiculously-busy servers.  They do their best but the demand for their services can create drink delivery delays.
  • Value for your Dollar: The MGM Grand has always been a good value accessible by a wide variety of Vegas visitors. Even during March Madness, the hotel doesn’t jack up the prices like some other places do, they just stick to the script of trying to be The People’s Champion.
  • Television Considerations: At most recent count you have access to 47 plasma TVs. The signature circular shape of the sportsbook creates a memorable viewing experience (if you don’t collapse from vertigo).  They seem to add more TVs every year…good for them.
  • Other Amenities: MGM Grand is a massive hotel. If you ever want to get lost for five hours, just make a left, then a right, then a left and we will see you later, much later.  The good thing is, everywhere you go there is something to see or do, yes you will wander aimlessly for hours, sometimes doubting if you’ll ever find your friends again, but no you will not lack for entertainment or food options.
  • Special Events Factor: Back in the day, before it was “the thing to do” to go to Vegas for March Madness, the MGM Grand was where you would go if you really wanted to do it up for the NCAA Tournament. Unlike the Mandalay Bay which was killer for a few years but just became too crowded to abide, the MGM Grand still offers one of the better March Madness events in Vegas.
  • Pedigree: The reason the MGM Grand made this list is because of its longstanding, well-earned reputation as being a terrific place to watch and bet on sports; may that never change!

Picture3Make sure you have a seat with a good view

And the winner is

Call Ahead and Ask the Right Questions

Keep in mind please that everything in Las Vegas is always changing.  Casinos and other Vegas entertainment venues will continue to strive to one-up each other in hopes of capturing your business for the March Madness extravaganza.  There will always be some new hotspot doing something awesome for this awesome sporting event—what is best for 2016 may not be best for 2017, you dig?

But that doesn’t mean that this article is already outdated, or ever will be.  On the contrary, it is our contention that the criteria by which we have judged the best places to watch March Madness in Las Vegas will never go out of style, and can guide you for years to come.  Behold our timeless values and a few quick suggestions for questions you can ask when evaluating your options:

  • Crowd Control: If I buy a ticket to your March Madness viewing party, do I get an assigned seat, or is it first come first seated?
  • Service Staff: Do servers come around to the tables to take drink orders, or do you have to go to the bar and order for yourself?
  • Value for your Dollar: How much is it for a {Insert Your Favorite Beverage Here}?
  • Television Considerations: How many TVs do you have?
  • Other Amenities: What else can I do at your establishment when I’m not watching games?
  • Special Events Factor: What makes your March Madness party stand out from all the rest?
  • Pedigree: When did you begin offering March Madness-related festivities?

Call ahead and ask questions regarding these matters…because these matters matter!

Madness Is Where the Heart Is

Now that we’ve given you all this detailed, actionable information, it’s time to get cheesy, almost start crying, and give you the Internet equivalent of one of those awkward bro hugs:

The real best place to watch March Madness in Vegas is wherever you and your friends are (provided of course that your friends aren’t a bunch of D-bags).

For real though, you can have just as much fun watching the games in the lobby of the Howard Johnson next to the freeway, drinking a case of Natural Ice, as if you are posted up at Caesar’s Palace crushing top-shelf martinis inside the proverbial “Ultimate Man Cave.”  In the end, it’s not so much about where you go in Vegas as who you go there with.  March Madness in Vegas thus remains one of the last, best great adventures that you can do on the cheap.

Nevertheless, here’s hoping that our humble article will help you find an insanely great place to watch the NCAA Tournament in Vegas.  We sincerely hope you enjoy yourself from morning until night and you never know, we might be right there with you, literally, because we mostly go every year to The Vegas for The Madness.  Only one last request we have of you then is as follows:

Please don’t you, or any of your friends, or any of your friends’ friends (even if they’re from Canada), ever, ever, ever say anything that even remotely resembles these hideous, heinous words:

“Hey dude, do you mind if we put the hockey game on one TV?”


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