2023 March Madness: Sweet 16 Returns to Las Vegas After Years of Separation

  • Two Men’s Sweet 16 games and one Elite Eight game will be played in Las Vegas
  • The NCAA previously banned championship games from happening in Vegas
  • The popularity and legality of sports betting helped the NCAA change its mind
T-Mobile Arena
March Madness is back in Las Vegas this week for the first time in many years. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Las Vegas preps for the Sweet 16

The Sweet 16 is headed to Las Vegas as March Madness re-stakes its claim in the gambling hub of America.

had a rule in place prohibiting championship events from being held in Vegas

The annual NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament vacated Vegas grounds for many years, largely due to the prevalence of sports betting. The NCAA even had a rule in place prohibiting championship events from being held in Vegas. However, the widespread legalization and popularity of sports and March Madness betting opened the door to games returning to the Strip.

The streak will come to an end soon when No. 4 UConn faces No. 8 Arkansas and No. 2 UCLA plays No. 3 Gonzaga in T-Mobile Arena Thursday at 7:15pm and 9:45pm ET, respectively, in the West Region semifinals. One of four Elite Eight matchups, featuring the winners of those two Sweet 16 games, will be played Saturday.

“Thirty years ago… I’m sure [the NCAA was] pretty skeptical of Las Vegas,” said Steve Hill, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority president and CEO. “I think as time passed, [the NCAA] probably mellowed. We’ve had conference tournaments here and we’ve had a real partnership, it feels like now, that didn’t exist before the change in the law.”

The NCAA ended its embargo on Las Vegas in 2019.

Basketball has been a growing attraction on the strip recently. The city hosts the NBA’s Summer League and Team USA camp and welcomed the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces to town in 2018. On top of that, there are rumors that it could be the recipient of an NBA expansion team, along with cities such as Seattle and Mexico City.

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