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Las Vegas sportsbooks get big bump from March Madness games

Early upsets mean big wins for sportsbooks
Las Vegas sportsbooks getting big bump from March Madness games
Las Vegas sportsbooks getting big bump from March Madness games
Posted at 7:32 PM, Mar 23, 2021

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — March Madness certainly lived up to its name over the weekend. There have been 11 upsets already and the Sweet 16 hasn't even started yet.

13 Action News spoke with Jay Kornegay, vice president of SuperBook operations at Westgate, about how all the upsets affected local sportsbooks and what the turnout was like over the weekend.

"Heading into the weekend, we were certainly full of optimism and it really came through. The numbers have been terrific, the crowds have been enthusiastic. They are thrilled to be out here," said Kornegay.

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For the first time in two years, Las Vegas saw long lines at local sportsbooks, full of fans hoping to cash in bets on college basketball's biggest tournament. But, a record number of upsets means the sportsbooks themselves were the big winners this weekend.

"When you’re talking about March Madness, you’re talking about recreational players, a lot of players who come in and enjoy everything that Las Vegas has to offer. They aren’t your hard-core handicappers. So, they tend to migrate to the so-called better team," said Kornegay, referencing bettors' eagerness to wager on the favorites.

At the Race & Sports SuperBook at Westgate, pandemic rules capped capacity at 1,100 people. But, Kornegay says they didn't come close to that this weekend.

"We did that on purpose, mainly to keep everybody comfortable. And we did get a lot of compliments that the spacing was terrific, the crowd levels were comfortable, and people were able to relax and enjoy themselves," said Kornegay.

Based on headcounts and conversations with guests, Kornegay says Las Vegas isn't fully back, but this weekend was a big step in the right direction.

"We’re not quite back to where we were prior to the pandemic, but we are inching closer. And just by talking to the guests, they were really thrilled; even the workers, our team out there," said Kornegay.

"This is an event that affects so many people in this town, from the airport to the cab drivers, to rideshares, to restaurants, bars, the entertainers. We need to get them back," he said.

"But the bartenders, the waitresses, and even our team that works at the sportsbook, everybody was thrilled to see the crowds that we saw this past weekend."

Looking ahead, the NCAA Tournament schedule is a little different this year.

Normally, the next round of games would be played Thursday through Sunday. But this year, the Sweet 16 will be played on Saturday and Sunday, and the Elite Eight games on Monday and Tuesday.

It's setting up for the second straight busy weekend at local sportsbooks.