Las Vegas a March Mecca for Fans of College Hoops and Horses

Las Vegas is inundated with college basketball fans during March, which also features important Kentucky Derby prep races. (Mario Ortiz/Wikimedia Commons)

From the feedback I have been getting, my readers like the direction of my columns. I remain focused on newcomer issues to horse racing. But I have also touched upon gambling, in general, and Las Vegas, which all of you seem to have a huge interest in.

There will be so much happening out here in March. I wanted to weave it all together starting with a historical note. When you visit Vegas and make a race or sports wager, the person you bet with is called a “ticket writer.”

I have had people ask me, why is that? The answer goes back to before pari-mutuel horse betting was legalized in Nevada. All race and sports bets were booked, meaning you were betting against the house.

The clerk would hand-write your bet on a 3-play sheet. You, the customer, would get one copy, the book would keep one for grading, and the accounting office would get one. Thus, the clerks were called ticket writers.

That is part of the reason why race and sports books are combined, or at least located side-by-side, in Vegas casinos. Their duties were similar up until pari-mutuel betting began.

March is an important time for us because sports bettors and fans will descend to Vegas in droves.

The T-Mobile Arena in Vegas. (Wikimedia Commons)

The first wave will come for the four men’s basketball conference tournaments. The West Coast Conference will be from March 2 through 6 at the Orleans Arena. Then, the Western Athletic Conference will take over the Orleans Arena from March 7 through 10.

Two more tournaments will also be held here from March 7 through 10. The Mountain West Conference will be at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Pac-12 will be at the T-Mobile Arena.

It is kind of neat to see the fans of each college proudly wearing their school colors around town. And a benefit for them is they can legally bet on their alma mater too.

The NCAA bracket show is on Sunday, March 11. After that, we will know which schools made it and where they are playing their first game. However, a lot of fans have already booked their tournament travel. That is, they plan to come to Vegas that first week – from March 15 through 18.

The beauty of coming to Vegas for the first round is you can watch all of the games from your comfy seat and be able to bet all of the games without even having to get up. I suggest all fans, even those from out of state, to sign up for a phone sports betting app with the casino you are visiting. Ticket writers will be very busy so “let your fingers do the walking.”

I consider this a key marketing opportunity for all the of race books in town too. They all have a captive audience of thousands of basketball fans. The horse racing product is staring them right in the face on TV screens. There is some spillover business, but there could be a lot more.

I would like to see casinos give out free horse race vouchers for those betting a certain amount on the tournament. Many of these players have never made a horse racing bet in their life. It’s a good time to spoon feed them. Who knows? The best marketing can be a winning ticket.

In closing, I would be remiss if I did not mention the Horseplayer World Series will be at the Orleans from March 8 through 10. The entry fee is $1,500. First prize last year was more than $370,000.

Richard Eng is the author of “Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies”, an introductory book for newcomers to the sport of horse racing.  For two decades, he was the turf editor and handicapper for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He still handicaps the Southern California tracks and his picks are for sale at You can email him at and follow him on Twitter @richeng4propick and on

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