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Industry report – March Madness ‘better than ever’ for Las Vegas sports books




The Las Vegas sports books may have just enjoyed their busiest March Madness weekend in state history. We estimated before the Tournament that $150 million would have been written throughout Nevada during the Madness, but based on early returns, we may have estimated a bit low

The Las Vegas sports books may have just enjoyed their busiest March Madness weekend in state history. We estimated before the Tournament that $150 million would have been written throughout Nevada during the Madness, but based on early returns, we may have estimated a bit low

That's a big deal when considering the Super Bowl generated $98 million in handle for the state. The Super Bowl is always the largest-handled day in the state, but collectively, nothing is bigger than the NCAA Tournament.

"Handle was through the roof, better than last year," said William Hill sports book director Jimmy Vaccaro. "The first day was outstanding, and Friday was even better. Things tailed off a bit Saturday and Sunday because of less games, but overall it's been better than ever. I wish we could do it all over again this week."

It's been four days of sold out rooms, exception table-game hold, and maybe best of all, the alcohol tabs paid by March Madness conventioneers that rival any tailgate bills in the history of NFL parties. There are no official records, but drinking was surely at an all-time high.

In all, the business of March Madness in Las Vegas is big business. And probably bigger than the NCAA may like, since our business is generated by gambling. But that's a discussion for another day.

The sports books had an outstanding four days of action and did well on the results, too. Favorites went 25-23 ATS and the OVER went 20-28 – the perfect equation for a winning four days that gives books the ability to match their usual hold of 7-10 percent for the month of March.

This year, in fact, it may even be higher than usual.

While the books lost Sunday with Florida Gulf Coast beating San Diego State at +280 on the money-line, they made up for it big time with Ohio State, Indiana and Miami all failing to cover despite advancing to the next round. Favorites winning but not covering is typically the best situation for books, since bettors tend to play favorites against the spread but dogs on the money line.

The tournament storylines

The 2013 NCAA Tournament has brought us some great stories so far, as a few smaller schools have hung around with traditional powers, making this Sweet 16 a pretty diverse one.

No story has been bigger than No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast making its way into the Sweet 16. But what makes the Eagles a huge story in these parts is their odds, even more so than their seeding.

You could have had Florida Gulf Coast at 1,000-to-1 to win the South Region at the LVH. The Eagles' days may be limited, as they take on Florida in the next round, but it sure would be nice to be holding one of those tickets.

We have an Indiana squad that still tops our power ratings but has not matched its rating expectations. The Hoosiers have failed to cover six of their last eight games.

Louisville, meanwhile, is playing at a higher level than anyone, and has won 12 straight and covered nine in a row.

Ohio State is also on fire, riding 10-game win streak, and covering in eight of those wins. One of those recent non-covers came Sunday, when the Buckeyes failed to get the cash as 7.5-point favorites vs. Iowa State.

Arizona coach Sean Miller is 12-2-1 ATS in his last 15 NCAA Tournament games, but the Wildcats lost both their games in Los Angeles this season, against USC and UCLA, site of Thursday's game vs. the Buckeyes. Ohio State is an early 4-point favorite.

Ohio State-Arizona could be the game of the week. With Gonzaga out, the Buckeyes are the new West Region favorites, and guards Aaron Craft and Mark Lyons make for a compelling head-to-head matchup. Craft, a defensive wizard, looks to contain Lyons, who's averaged 25 points in two tournament games. It should be an epic battle, but if there's a 'Lyons under 25 points' prop, it'd be worth laying -300.

In the East Regional, we see value with Syracuse as a 5.5-point dog against Indiana. Beginning with the Big East tournament, the Orange have transformed into a championship-caliber squad, and James Southerland has found his long-distance stroke (22-for-41 from 3-point range during the two tournaments). We also think Miami (-6) should be able to live up to its rating over No. 3 seed Marquette.

Follow along all week here at The Linemakers, as we'll have leans and plenty more valuable handicapping information for every Sweet 16 game.

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