Making the Most of the Madness

Nicole Ely | Vegas Seven

The March Madness college basketball tournament begins Thursday, and every weekend through the end of the month will be loaded with tournament-viewing parties. With visitors coming to town from all over the country, this opening weekend is the best, with St. Patrick’s Day falling smack in the middle of it all on Friday. Something about March Madness brings out the high-cost to-dos, and you won’t have any trouble finding open-bar packages for $100 to $200, but you can do better.

Ellis Island has all-you-can-drink beer, a buffet, a T-shirt and raffle giveaways from 8 a.m.–3 p.m. and 3 p.m.–10 p.m. for $30 each, or get both sessions for $50. Downtown, the Plaza is debuting a new “event space” for its March Mania Viewing Party. Located just off the casino floor, the 5,000-square-foot area features 18 big-screen TVs and a state-of-the-art sound system. Admission to the party is $15 per day or $40 for all four days—both include a T-shirt and one complimentary drink and food menu item per day.

Free viewing parties have been announced for South Point, Treasure Island, Tuscany Suites, Palms, Palace Station, El Cortez and almost all the Boyd casinos. Most of these sell beer, hot dogs and other food selections for $2-$3. The Fremont Street Experience is hosting the eighth annual “Downtown Hoopstown” celebration with free entertainment, the High Hoops Zone basketball-shot challenge and the “World’s Largest NCAA Bracket” displayed on the Viva Vision canopy.

If you’re betting on the games, entering a contest is one way to make your action stretch and also have a shot at winning a lot for a little. Station Casinos is running the Last Man Standing contest with a $25 entry, and you get one entry free when you buy four—there’s a guaranteed winner-take-all prize of $50,000. If you’re betting on individual games, look for places that give you something extra for your action. For example, at both Arizona Charlie’s locations, a $20 parlay or $50 straight bet gets you a “March Mania” T-shirt. The expected loss on a $50 bet is about $3, so that’s a decent perk.

For St. Patrick’s Day, the strategy is simple: Head to any bar with an Irish name—you know, JC’s Irish Sports Pub (Rampart Casino), Rí Rá Las Vegas (The Shoppes at Mandalay Place), Jack’s Irish Pub (Palace Station) or McMullan’s Irish Pub. O’Sheas at The Linq is bringing back its O’Sheas Bloq Party, which features a St. Patty’s Day parade and live bands all day. A four-day party will run at the Fremont Street Experience, with live bands on all three stages playing past midnight on March 17. The Plaza is advertising a free party in the dome, matchplay vouchers (amount not specified) at the bars and a “green fireworks” show at 10 p.m. Gamblers can also snag $20 in matchplay on the 17th at any of the four Sean Patrick’s Pubs. These places get crowded, so go early to grab a machine.

Anthony Curtis is the publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor and