Super Bowl thrusts Las Vegas into global spotlight

February 3, 2024 3:02 PM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
February 3, 2024 3:02 PM

Coming off record gaming revenue for December and 2023 and the Formula 1 race in November, the Super Bowl is thrusting Las Vegas once again into the international spotlight. More records are expected to fall, including the betting handle on the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers. The game is certain to enhance Las Vegas’ growing reputation as a sports destination.

The February gaming-revenue record of $1.23 billion set last year will probably be breached, as will the Super Bowl record handle of $179.8 million reached in February 2022 when the Cincinnati Bengals played the Los Angeles Rams.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority projects 330,000 people to be in Las Vegas for the Super Bowl, about 30,000 more than the game traditionally attracts in the city and just below the 350,000 for New Year’s Eve. Ticket prices for the 65,000-seat stadium are at record levels.

“We’re riding the biggest five months in the history of this city,” said LVCVA President and CEO Steve Hill. “We had the Sphere opening, NASCAR, Formula One, the NBA in-season tournament, NFR, and CES (Consumer Electronics Show). And it all culminates with Super Bowl 58.”

Room rates are at record levels, with those at MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment exceeding $800 a night on average. And given the space private jets have reserved at airports, the game should also attract a lot of high rollers. Formula One attracted an estimated 120,000 people and race goers spent more than $4,100 on average.

“The Gaming Control Board doesn’t produce projections for Super Bowl wagering. However, with a West Coast team from the number-two feeder market for Las Vegas playing the defending champions and with the game in Las Vegas, I would anticipate wagering activity will be at record levels,” said Michael Lawton, senior economic analyst for the Board.

Nevada could be looking at another monthly gaming-revenue record. Lawton expects this month to generate a year-over-year increase compared to February 2023, especially with 29 days in the month. This year as well, Chinese New Year, always a big attraction, is on the day before the Super Bowl.

Jeff Benson, director of operations at Circa Sports, expects a record Super Bowl handle. It’s the first time the game will be held in Las Vegas and the two fan bases travel well. “If we can get more events like F1, March Madness (Final Four), and the Super Bowl, along with a baseball team, the more successful weekends like this we have, the better it is for the industry as a whole. It’s also about restaurants, hotels, gaming, and ancillary spending that come with these types of events.”

Circa Las Vegas, the D Las Vegas, and Golden Gate trio of properties downtown are sold out of hotel rooms and parties will be standing-room only, Benson said. The Circa sportsbook and its Stadium Swim attraction is sold out as well.

“We’re expected to be at max capacity and have the most people we’ve ever had at our venues at any one time,” Benson said. “The NFL is king and the Super Bowl is certainly going to drive them. It should be a fantastic weekend. Sports is huge for us, since we built a sportsbook so big we had to build a casino around it. Having these big-time events in the city continues to drive trips and traffic to the downtown properties and the city as whole.”

Jeff Sherman, vice president of risk management at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, said this year’s Super Bowl “has all the ingredients” to set an all-time record. It’s better, he believes than if Baltimore and Detroit had won their conference championships.

“With the energy in town, people who usually don’t get involved too much might now get more involved,” Sherman said. “And this year, you have the Taylor Swift effect and a whole new demographic with eyes on it. We tried to get a little creative and involved (her boyfriend Travis Kelce with Kansas City with betting props). We can’t take any Taylor Swift props, but we named one the ‘Swift Competition’ and pitted Kelce against Catlin Clark of Iowa women’s basketball.

“In every respect, it’s going to break anything we’ve done in prior years for the Super Bowl weekend,” Sherman said. “It seems like the Super Bowl was just awarded and it’s here already. It’s hitting every type of involvement and I hope it sticks in the (Super Bowl) rotation.”

Andrew Woods, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, said that without even hosting the game, the Super Bowl has long been the number-two visitor attraction behind New Year’s Eve. Having the game here takes it to another level. He expects about $185 million bet on the Super Bowl in Nevada. The Super Bowl is also projected to have a $600 million economic impact, according to the LVCVA.

“Even if you don’t have a ticket to the game, so many events are going on across the valley that it’s a unique experience,” Woods said. “We know from our research that sports fans tend to stay longer and come in bigger groups. Sports is the third biggest category for spending outside of hotel and airfare. The first is food and the second is shopping.”

The most recent report available, from 2022, shows visitors who come to Las Vegas for sports spend about $1,084 per person, Woods said. Some 5% of visitors came to Las Vegas in 2022 for sports and that number will grow when 2023 numbers are released and be even higher for 2024, he added.

“It’s our first time doing this, but it’s exciting to see it happen and be viewed on the world stage as not only a place where you come to visit, but also a place to have world-class sporting events,” Woods said.

With worldwide media coverage during the week and on game day showing images of the Strip, Woods and other analysts said it’s a great advertising campaign for Las Vegas.

“We’ve got hockey, football, and women’s basketball and baseball is coming,” Woods said. “It puts more pressure on the NBA to expand in Las Vegas at some point. Getting the Super Bowl back, because we do it well and can accommodate it, helps spur more development. We recovered from the pandemic and as sports continues to be the next evolution, what does that mean visitation wise? We were just shy of 41 million in 2023 and the record was right under 43 million in 2016, so I look to see whether we can get close to that record in 2024 and surpass it in 2025.”

Las Vegas has been setting gaming-revenue records, even without visitation being back to normal, because those coming are spending more.

“Vegas is back and bigger than ever and the Super Bowl is the cherry on top in reminding Las Vegas and people that it’s the premier entertainment-experience location in the world,” said Oliver Lovat, CEO of the Denstone Group.

Las Vegas is well positioned with sports: the $1.5 billion stadium slated for the Tropicana Las Vegas site that will be home of the A’s in 2028, the NBA expected to award Las Vegas a franchise by the end of the decade, and a $1 billion arena being built south of the Strip on Las Vegas Boulevard. As for entertainment the city has hosted residencies of top acts such as U2 at Sphere and Adele at Caesars Palace. Allegiant Stadium has sold out concert after concert.

Josh Swissman, founding partner with GMA Consulting, said it’s possible that the worldwide exposure Las Vegas received with F1 in November prompted travel to the city after the event and the Super Bowl should do the same in the weeks and months to come, further enhancing 2024 visitation and spending.

“Not that long ago, the NFL looked unfavorably on Vegas and the gaming industry and that mindset has changed,” Swissman said. “Now you have a professional football team in Las Vegas and the Super Bowl is the crown jewel for the NFL. For that event and all that goes with it to take place in Vegas is a testament to how Vegas can step up and accommodate world-class entertainment on a scale that’s fitting for a Super Bowl.”

Brendan Bussmann, managing partner of B Global, said seeing the record-setting 2023 buoyed by the Strip shows the staying power of Las Vegas and that diversifying the product offerings led by sports and entertainment has had an impact and will continue to do so.

“F1’s impact was not just about who comes in for the race,” Bussmann said. “There are very few times you can get a two-hour commercial three nights in a row. You’re going to have a half-day on CBS and even leading up to the week. That’s a multiple you can’t put a price tag on.”

Lawrence Shen, managing director of Advantage Partners Consulting, said it’s undeniable that Las Vegas has solidified itself as a sports and entertainment mecca. The Golden Knights winning the Stanley Cup, the Las Vegas Aces winning back-to-back WNBA championships, and the NBA In-Season Tournament are only a start. The Athletics’ upcoming relocation, future Super Bowls, and the inevitable future of an NBA expansion team show a strong pipeline. The Sphere and the multiple Taylor Swift performances also drew and will keep drawing record-breaking young crowds into the city, he said.

“The gaming industry is embracing tech to reshape itself in operations,” Shen said. “Various analytical functions and some first-level AI have already entered the space to provide more targeted marketing and lower operating costs. Those resources can be allocated to renovate hotels and gaming floors, develop attractions, and provide experiences that capture traditionally non-gaming segments and transform them into gamers.”

The benefits to Las Vegas, however, go beyond gaming revenue and other income. “The culture of the town has been impacted by having professional sports here and giving us an identity and confidence that we’re not just a little town in the desert anymore but a metropolitan area that’s still growing and has lots to offer,” Woods said.