But casino executives and analysts say big sporting events like March Madness, the Triple Crown of horse racing and high-profile boxing matches do more than just bring in wagers.
“The value to sports books is not the bets that run through it, but is in the extent it brings people to Las Vegas to spend a lot of money on a lot of other things,” like hotel bookings, restaurants, bars, entertainment and gambling in other parts of the casino, says Robert LaFleur, a gaming, lodging and leisure analyst with Susquehanna Financial Group.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority estimates that Super Bowl weekend this year drew an estimated $109.5 million in non-gaming revenue and 287,000 visitors. Vegas insiders expect a similar impact from March Madness.
"We're an amenity for guests," says Robert Walker, race and sports book director for MGM Mirage, which operates seven of the largest sports books in Nevada, including those at the Bellagio, Mandalay Bay and MGM Grand casinos. "We wouldn't be able to justify these big rooms if it was based on dollar-for-dollar, but these are the times when we show our value."
While the Super Bowl still brings in the big five- and six-figure wagers, March Madness draws more individual bets, albeit in lower-denomination bets.