ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey – This is March Madness on a whole different level.
A bet between two Las Vegas casino owners will cost one of them $1 million if Michigan wins the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Derek Stevens, who owns The D Las Vegas and Golden Gate casinos, plunked down $12,500 on the Wolverines at the Golden Nugget Las Vegas, which was offering 80-to-1 odds before the tournament started.
“It’s a little scary, because they’re only putting up twelve-five, and you’re putting up a million,” said Tilman Fertitta, the Texas billionaire who owns the Golden Nugget. “But that’s the nature of the business we’re in. It’s OK, ’cause he’s a good customer.”
Stevens, a Michigan native and University of Michigan alumnus, bet $11,000 each on all 32 first-round games, but got off to a rocky start, down $109,000 after the opening round. But his wager on the seventh-seeded Wolverines could turn that tide.
Michigan has advanced to the Sweet 16, bringing Fertitta closer to making a payout 10 times larger than any his casino’s sports book has ever made. Michigan plays No 3 seed Oregon Thursday and still needs four wins to win the national championship.
“Michigan seems to be kind of a darling right now,” Fertitta said. “It’s giving us a good sweat.”
The Golden Nugget could have rejected the bet, but Fertitta personally approved it.
Stevens posted a copy of his betting slip from the Golden Nugget on Twitter.
Fertitta himself is tied for second place in a nationwide charity brackets pool, the Bloomberg Brackets for a Cause March Madness challenge. Picking his own alma mater North Carolina to win it all, he promises to give the $380,000 prize to the Houston Police Foundation if he wins.
Fertitta also owns Atlantic City’s Golden Nugget casino, which he bought from President Donald Trump’s former company, and Landry’s Inc., one of the nation’s largest restaurant companies. He also stars on the reality TV show “Billion Dollar Buyer” on CNBC.