Until last year, when that bonanza unexpectedly and suddenly disappeared.
“Financially, it was just devastating,” Kornegay said. In Las Vegas, sports books were closed from mid-March to June, and casinos also struggled with other offerings such as slot machines, table games and amenities such as hotel rooms and restaurants.
Some betting has switched to mobile betting, offering more and more brick-and-mortar stores as people eager for action have been looking far and wide for new betting options. “We’ve seen record numbers in the mobile app over the last seven or eight months,” Kornegay said. “It’s now about 70 percent of our total handle.”
This year, restrictions in Las Vegas and elsewhere will mean sports books will be limited to between 33 and 50 percent of their normal capacity.
At Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Miss., One of the many casinos across the country that has added sports betting in recent years, there are seating restrictions and tables for table space. Yet officials there and at other sports books across the country expect basketball fans to return.
“We will definitely fill 100 percent of what we can,” said Will Hall, the Beau Rivage racing and sports book manager. Other casinos also predict sales.
“People are really jones for March Madness,” Bogdanovich said.
However, changes to the schedule this year could have a slight effect on the business. The first four days will be moved one day forward. Holding the first round on Friday and Saturday may not make a big difference, several bookmakers have said, but holding Sunday and Monday Round 2 will have a negative impact.
The round of 16 matches, which are normally played on a Thursday and Friday, will be held on March 27 and 28, a Saturday and Sunday, which will correct the professional bettors for big days. “The local finals that send teams to the Final Four are usually a weekend quartet matches, but which are now set for a Monday and Tuesday are probably going to be the worst ever,” Kornegay said.