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March Madness Opening Weekend Brings A Touch Of Normalcy To Las Vegas Room Rates

James Murphy
by in Gaming Industry on
  • For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic Las Vegas hotel rooms are in high demand.
  • March Madness is always a huge betting event in Las Vegas but the influx of visitors is particularly welcome this year.
  • The opening weekend of March Madness has produced the highest room rates we’ve seen since pre-COVID-19.

In our previous article, we looked at the Las Vegas hotel rates for the opening two rounds of March Madness which are higher than anything we’ve seen since before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Or at least they are if you don’t know how to get first rate accommodations on the cheap.


In the article linked above we looked at rates for the first two rounds of March Madness meaning checking in on Wednesday, March 17 and checking out on Monday, March 22. Now we’ll look at the ‘weekend only’ rates.

As noted in the previous article you’ll seldom be able to find a good deal if you just want to stay in Las Vegas for the weekend and either accept the ‘rack rate’ for a hotel or otherwise book through their own website. This is true for most weekends in the 702–or it least it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ll do the same searches we did for the Wednesday through Monday rates:


We hit up Priceline, Hotwire and Hotels.com in the first article and that’s what we’ll do again only this time we’ll check in on Friday night and check out on Sunday AM:


So we’ve established that this is likely the least cost effective way to book at hotel in Las Vegas. You’d likely pay more over Super Bowl weekend and over New Years Eve/Day but not by much.

At Priceline if you’re booking for the weekend there are a number of properties that are sold out including the Circa downtown. Most of the marquee properties that remain are north of $200 and most of the second tier hotels are more than a C-note a night.

Like the previous search the highest price per night is at the Cosmopolitan:

The Waldorf-Astoria is nearly $200 less. It’s a better hotel and it’s literally right next door to the Cosmopolitan:

Even the Best Western at McCarren Airport is $117 a night:

Even with these higher prices there are few decent deals to be had. The Four Queens has been one of my favorites downtown since long before they built a roof over Fremont Street. It’s a perfectly fine hotel and just $97 with no resort fees:

Not a lot of value to be had *on* the Strip but were it me I’d stay *near* the Strip at the highly underrated Tuscany Suites & Casino. They even have a brand new Circa Sports run sportsbook.

Moving over to Hotwire the average room rate citywide is $230 and the average for a Hot Rate deal is $172. If you’re looking at five star hotels you’re still going to be paying in excess of $200 even with the Hot Rate deals. Here’s the same Hot Rate deal we looked at in the previous article:

Spoiler alert: the secret identity is the Four Seasons but you’ll pay an extra $100+:

Hotels.com was sold out of just about everything:

I also did a seach on Kayak which aggregates prices from a bunch of other sites. Prices were in line with everywhere else but the takeway is that there were plenty of rooms available–even at the Circa though it’ll cost you

I did some searching in a few more places and the prices were higher but there were plenty of rooms available. There were a couple of fairly decent deals–The Mirage for $110 per night was probably the best of these.


In the first article you’ll recall this graphic with the most recent hotel occupancy and rate data (January 2021)

With a few exceptions that I’ll mention in a moment even booking a hotel just for the weekend you’ll pay right around or even less than the average citywide price from 2020 ($153).

The exceptions? Circa is arguably the hottest property in town and particularly among sports bettors. The Cosmopolitan is also in the mix for ‘hottest in town’ and you’ll pay a premium if you want to stay at either property. The point, however, is that you can still get a room. If you want to stay at a ‘garden variety’ four or five star property you can do so for $250 a night. No matter what sort of standards you have for your Las Vegas accommodations you can get a room that meets or exceeds them with no problem whatsoever.

It’s been a tough year for Las Vegas and this is akin to the ‘first robin of Spring’–a sign that better days are ahead. That being said–and based on the availability of rooms at higher than usual though not downright outlandish prices–I’m of the opinion that weekend occupancy for March Madness weekend will be well under the 90.1% average from 2020. My guesstimate is probably in the high 70 or very low 80% range. It’s certainly less than the 2020 *midweek* occupancy rate of 83.8% If I was setting an occupancy rate Over/Under it would be 78.5%.

As I noted at the outset of the previous article there’s been several positive developments in the Las Vegas gaming and tourism industries over the past couple of weeks. Unfortunately, it will likely be early or even mid 2022 before the city digs out of this economic hole. The fact that there’s such a big deal being made of what would be in any other year a disappointing March Madness with average occupancy and room rates just underscores the severity of COVID-19’s financial damage to Las Vegas.

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