Will Las Vegas Ever Host a Major College Sports Championship?

Written By Marc Meltzer on April 16, 2018
College Sports

The NCAA and Las Vegas seem to have a love-hate relationship. The governing body of college sports says it’s cool for college sports to take place in Las Vegas … but not when it matters most. In fact, no college sports championships can take place anywhere in Nevada because of legal sports betting.

Sorry NCAA, but your colleges love Las Vegas and play there all the time. In fact, every year major college basketball teams play at venues that are connected to casinos. Forget your Madness, Las Vegas has college hoops from the beginning to the very end of the season.

  • Pre-season basketball tournaments take place in Las Vegas.
  • Neutral site college basketball games during the season take place in Las Vegas.
  • Las Vegas is home to multiple postseason college basketball conference tournaments.

The Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational is scheduled for Nov. 22-23, 2018 at the Orleans Arena. The tournament takes place at this venue every year but this may be the biggest year. The University of North Carolina, Michigan State, Texas, and UCLA are all participating in the tournament this year. It probably makes sense to hold the tournament at a larger arena but we don’t make schedules.

St. Mary’s will play LSU in a neutral site game at T-Mobile Arena on December 15, according to The Advocate. Tickets aren’t on sale yet so there hasn’t been an announcement if there will be other teams on the bill. We could see UNLV’s name pop up as the second half of a doubleheader when they announce the 2018-19 schedule.

The Pac 12, Mountain West, WAC and West Coast conferences all held their basketball conference tournaments in Las Vegas in 2018. The Pac 12 likes Vegas so much that they’ve extended the length of the Men’s tournament contract and are bringing the women’s tournament to Las Vegas beginning next year.

The only venue that doesn’t have a connection to a casino is the Thomas & Mack Center on the Campus of UNLV. The Orleans Arena physically connects with the casino and sportsbook. T-Mobile Arena is partially owned by MGM Resorts and is a one minute walk from sportsbooks inside New York-New York and Monte Carlo/Park MGM.

Vegas Madness

We know that the first weekend of March Madness in Las Vegas is bananas. There’s really no experience like watching and wagering on all of those games the first two days of the NCAA basketball tournament in Las Vegas. The action is well beyond the sportsbooks. According to ESPN, nearly all of Vegas’ 170,000 hotel rooms in Vegas were occupied during the weekend. Tickets for watch parties and seats to watch the games in sportsbooks were booked solid too.

Las Vegas is so busy for the first weekend of March Madness that hosting games would be a burden and probably not as profitable. There’s only so much more casino operators can charge for rooms and parties. The NCAA may never need Las Vegas but in time they will want to be there officially for their biggest events.

Betting on college sports became legal in Nevada in 2001. Betting on college sports may soon become legal throughout the country in the next couple of years. At some point, the league will either take away championships away from other cities or allow Nevada to host similar events.

Coincidentally, Las Vegas will be opening a 65,000+ seat stadium for the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020. That seems like a good time to start thinking about Las Vegas as a legit option to host the Final Four.

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Marc Meltzer

Marc Meltzer grew up on the mean streets of the South Bronx. He's the rare combination of Yankees and Jets fan which explains his often contrarian point of view. Marc is a freelance writer and social media consultant. Writing about steak, booze, gambling and Las Vegas is a tough job but somebody has to do it.

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