It’s the first year in the 80-year history of the NCAA tournament that fans legally can bet on March Madness games outside Nevada, and Coast casinos and sports bars are getting into the game.
Unlike the Super Bowl that is a two-team, one-day event, March Madness is 67 games stretching over nearly three weeks.
One in five Americans will wager during March Madness, said Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, which is more than twice as many people than bet on the Super Bowl. Nearly 18 million people will wager $3.9 billion, the AGA said, but most of the bets are still expected to be placed illegally with a bookie or at illegal offshore sites.
Mississippi is one of eight states where sports betting is legal. Miller said fans placed nearly $1 billion in wagers just in January.
Legal bets in Mississippi can only be placed inside one of the 12 Coast casinos, where fans likely will find a crowd in line to place bets and watching the games on huge screen TVS. Many sportsbooks will open early for the games and stay open until the final basket each day.
Betting on basketball
“There’s going to be a lot of cheering,” said Nikki McGowan, sportsbook supervisor at DraftKings at Scarlet Pearl Sports Book in D’Iberville. “We hope that it becomes the party it is in Vegas.”
Fans can bet the spread in the score; the total, which is whether the score of the game will be under or over a predetermined number set by the book, or the money line on an outright winner.
McGowan said they also can make prop bets on the first half, the second half of a game or whether the No. 1 seed will win it all.
Seasoned sports betters may go for Duke, which is favored to win the tournament, while McGowan said novice betters are known to bet for the long shot.
Thursday and Friday, March 21 and 22, have the most action in the tournament. By Sunday the tournament will be down to the Sweet 16. Those games begin on Thursday, March 28, and will narrow the field to the Final Four on April 6 and the National Championship game on April 8.
LSU played Thursday and Friday’s Ole Miss game starts at 11:40 a.m. and Mississippi State at 6:30 p.m.
Fans are excited to see two Mississippi teams in the game, but Palace Casino general manager Keith Crosby said, “As much as there is enthusiasm for our two teams, it transcends that.”
March Madness has marketed for years, he said, and this year Mississippi casinos are the beneficiary. The Palace is smoke-free and has a loyal group of fans who watch games on the 52 televisions and eat at Contact Sports Bar every day, he said.
“We don’t have to throw a viewing party,” Crosby said. “It’s a viewing party every day.”
Here are some plans for viewing parties at the Coast casinos and sports bars:
▪ Beau Rivage Sports Book & Bar will have extended hours through the weekend. Triggerfish tacos, vodka shrimp and crispy chicken wings are among the food and drink specials during the viewing parties. After this weekend, Sports Book & Bar will close to make way for a complete makeover debuting this summer. Betting windows will remain open during the remodeling and games can be seen on screens throughout the resort.
▪ Boomtown Casino’s Ole Saint restaurant and sports bar has 40 wide-screen televisions, 24 kinds of beer and a Coastal Southern menu. It’s owned by New Orleans Saints great Deuce McAlister.
▪ Golden Nugget is one of the most popular sportsbooks with its kiosks and Michael Patrick’s sports bar to watch the games on a 120-inch flat screen TV.
▪ Hard Rock’s March Mayhem Watch Party runs from 10 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. Thursday. Drink specials will be available this weekend and throughout the tournament at iLOV305.
▪ Harrah’s Gulf Coast lets fans watch the game from the book, the bar or the pool. Reserve a plush lounger or a high table at the book this week or throughout the championship for $25 per session. A one-day pass to Flavors Lounge gets fans premium access, complimentary food and two drinks for $30. Private poolside cabanas on Saturdays and Sundays come with seating for six, a refrigerator, $100 in food and beverage credit and a HD TV. The cost is $25 per person, with a four-person minimum.
▪ IP Casino’s sportsbook is adjacent to Highlights Sports Bar, where fans can watch the games on 76 HD TVs while sipping beer and eating burgers and wings. A giant TV also lets guests watch March Madness poolside.
▪ Island View Casino will celebrate March Madness this week with watch parties from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Sunday on the third level of the Beach Tower.
▪ Palace Casino was named to a list of top places to watch March Madness in the country by gambling.com. The smoke-free casino and Contact Sports Bar has a variety of good food and drink while watching the game, said Crosby.