LAS VEGAS — When legendary boxers Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao finally met in a super-fight in 2015, it became one of the biggest events ever in Las Vegas. Hundreds of thousands of spectators flocked to the desert. Not all of them could attend the fight, but they filled price-surged hotels, gambled and found thousands of other ways to spend their money. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the estimated economic impact on Las Vegas was well over $150 million.
The Mayweather-Pacquiao fight was the most star-studded, high-end event Jason Strauss has experienced in 19 years working in the hospitality industry in Las Vegas. As crazy as fight week was, however, the co-CEO and co-founder of Tao Group Hospitality, which operates several restaurants in Las Vegas (along with clubs like JEWEL, OMNIA, TAO, Marquee and Hakkasan), believes it’ll pale in comparison to what’s on tap with Super Bowl LVIII this week.
“What’s going to happen with the Super Bowl is going to be 10 times that,” Strauss said. “Formula One (the Las Vegas Grand Prix) was great, but the volume of business, guests and events that are coming through for the Super Bowl is 10 times what Formula One is. I think this will be the busiest weekend of our entire career.”
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The weekend of the Super Bowl is always a good one for business in Las Vegas as thousands of people travel to the city to gamble and enjoy themselves. With that being said, “The Big Game” actually being in Las Vegas is projected to make a massive difference.
About 500,000 additional people are expected to travel to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl. Whether it’s via commercial or private means, simply getting into the city has been a hassle. Street traffic will make Las Vegas more difficult to navigate. Hotel availability is dwindling, and rates are skyrocketing. Tickets for the game are hitting record numbers on the resale market. Gaining entry to clubs will be expensive, and invitations to private parties will be elusive. Just getting a reservation at a popular restaurant is already a chore.
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According to the LVCVA, the spending from Super Bowl week is expected to bring in somewhere between $600 million to $700 million more than what Las Vegas typically draws during this week. A large part of that economic impact will be seen at Allegiant Stadium through ticket, concession and merchandise sales and at nearby casinos along The Strip.
But it’s also expected to spread throughout the metropolitan area. The length of time that people are in the city — the participating teams, NFL employees and media covering the Super Bowl had mostly arrived by Monday — should make the impact more similar to that of a convention than a singular event.
“I think the Super Bowl is going to be very helpful for our local businesses,” UNLV assistant professor of hospitality Amanda Belarmino said. “Super Bowl is always a busy weekend for us. However, with the amount of people that are coming out and with the length of time that we’re seeing the Super Bowl impact, it’s going to be very unique from what we normally have.”
To ensure they maximize the opportunity presented by the Super Bowl, local businesses have spent months getting ready. Tao Group Hospitality executives, for example, have had calls about the Super Bowl every week for the last six months. Super Bowl LVIII is the proverbial coronation of Las Vegas as a sports powerhouse. The city has been an entertainment tourist destination for decades, of course, but the financial uptick from its sports-related growth remains significant.
“It’s like a perfect storm,” Strauss said. “It’s something that Vegas has never seen.”
Until the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018, Nevada was the only state with legalized sports betting. While that has changed in recent years, that hasn’t hurt the sports betting industry in Las Vegas.
After the repeal of PASPA, MGM Resorts International launched online sports gambling platform BetMGM. They also opened physical sportsbooks throughout Nevada and in several other states where sports betting was legalized. According to BetMGM, its most-bet event every year is the Super Bowl. To get ready for this year’s Super Bowl, BetMGM has increased its staffing at its physical sportsbooks in Las Vegas to ensure it can handle the volume.
“Super Bowl LVIII will be the biggest event in the history of BetMGM to date in terms of betting volume,” chief revenue officer Matt Prevost said.
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As the NFL and other professional sports leagues become increasingly entrenched in the gaming industry, the interest in Las Vegas as a host for major events has risen correspondingly. BetMGM chief revenue officer Lance Evans said that while the F1 LVGP in November taught the company valuable lessons from an infrastructure standpoint, the traffic surrounding the Super Bowl should be more consistent. If the activity at BetMGM and the other sportsbooks in Las Vegas is as high as anticipated, it’ll only give professional sports leagues more reason to continue leaning into the gambling capital of the world.
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“It’s something that we’ve proven to be prepared for,” Evans said. “Each of the leagues, regardless of type, has shown interest in coming to the destination.”
But the casinos in Las Vegas — and the hotels that house them — are not the only businesses that will see an uptick as a result of the Super Bowl. Other potential benefactors include the clubs, bars, restaurants and other businesses on and surrounding the Las Vegas Strip.
“Since so many people are here for leisure, it’s going to be a higher expenditure in some ways because it’s a bucket-list trip going to the Super Bowl,” Belarmino said. “It’s not something that most people do.”
Walter Cortez, a host at Wynn Nightlife, which operates XS, Encore Beach Club and the Wynn Field Club located fieldside at Allegiant Stadium, said he expects that “all businesses are going to be booming.”
Cortez’s job is largely focused on VIP services. He connects with clients and plans out their travel, lodging, restaurant reservations, transportation and security along with a litany of other tasks. Essentially, he’s a personal concierge. Super Bowl LVIII has made Cortez’s job significantly busier. Whether the client he’s working with is a celebrity or a college student, everything has been harder to plan.
“It’s going to be pretty hectic,” Cortez said. “I know my phone’s going to be blowing up. People are going to be needing everything. Since last month, I’ve been helping people, not only with reservations for tables (at clubs) but getting them (hotel) rooms, and getting them restaurant reservations has been pretty tough. I feel like I’m not going to be able to sleep.”
Ahead of the Super Bowl, strip clubs in Las Vegas have seen an influx of strippers from out of town. The purpose has been to give themselves time to audition, familiarize themselves with the layout of the clubs and attempt to land prime shifts for when the venues are busiest.
Crazy Horse 3, a strip club located less than a mile from Allegiant Stadium, expects to have between 400 and 500 strippers working throughout Super Bowl Sunday and the night that follows. From Friday through Sunday, they’ll be open 24 hours a day.
“Twenty-four-hour kitchen, 24-hour dances,” said a Crazy Horse 3 employee who requested anonymity. “You can’t beat it.”
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— TMZ Sports (@TMZ_Sports) February 8, 2024
Many other strip clubs in Las Vegas are expanding their hours for the week, hosting Super Bowl-themed watch parties on game day and preparing for an unusually high number of customers. Strip clubs will never get the NFL’s official stamp like the gaming industry, but they, too, stand to profit in a big way.
“We’re definitely going to get overloaded,” said the Crazy Horse 3 employee, “but I’m all for it.”
The impact of Las Vegas hosting the Super Bowl and, more broadly, the city’s transformation into a legitimate sports hub has been wide-ranging. The sports leagues, owners and sponsors stand to profit more than anyone, but the hope is that locals will also benefit through tax revenue, job creation and a stabilizing force for the economy.
As long as that comes to fruition, the growth of Las Vegas in the sports world isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon.
(Photo: Ethan Miller / Getty Images)