Las Vegas is known as a place where people play the odds. The city raises the bar when it comes to hospitality, restaurants, shops and gambling.
The Las Vegas Strip took the global stage in November when Formula 1 used the iconic stretch of asphalt for its first event in Las Vegas since the 1980s. Now, the biggest one-day sporting event in the world is ready for its close-up on February 11 as the city which hosts its first Super Bowl, between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers at Allegiant Stadium.
“There have been decades of buildup to professional football being in Las Vegas, so it’s a little bit hard to get your head around the fact that it’s only days away and it’s actually going to happen,” said Steve Hill, the chief executive officer and president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “We’re really excited about it and it matters a lot to us. Putting on major events is what we do here. The entire economy of Las Vegas and Nevada is dependent on tourism and hospitality. And this is the world stage. We feel like we’re going out on that field on Sunday too. So it matters to us because everybody’s going to be watching and, when we do a great job, it’s going to send a fantastic message that we can handle anything that comes our way and please bring it all to Las Vegas.”
The list of major sporting events Las Vegas has hosted in the past couple of years is staggering. Formula 1, NCAA Tournament Men’s West Regional Finals, Stanley Cup Final, the NFL Draft and the Pro Bowl are a few of the high-profile competitions the city has seen. The NCAA Men’s Final Four is coming in 2028. The Super Bowl seems like the last, giant piece of the puzzle that will complete the city’s sports masterpiece.
“The NFL has this index that they call a ‘buzz factor’ and they have said that the buzz factor that they measure at Super Bowls is 40% higher in Las Vegas than they’ve ever seen previously,” Hill said. “And that includes things like how much social media is talking about it. The Super Bowl being in Vegas is really driving that spotlight.”
As always, Vegas is going big for Super Bowl week. An exclusive CBS Las Vegas residency will take place throughout the week, with the fountains of the Bellagio serving as the backdrop of the network’s central broadcast location. In addition to live broadcasts of The NFL Today and Super Bowl Live, the location will also produce non-sports shows including CBS Evening News, CBS Mornings and Inside Edition.
“No place has fountains like the Bellagio. Not very many places have Observation Wheels like the Linq. No other place has the Sphere. And the list can just keep going,” Hill said. “So our job is to figure out how we can activate all this and just make it an elevated experience. And the city has certainly done that.”
The Super Bowl Experience will take place at Mandalay Bay from February 7–10. The event offers fans the opportunity to collect autographs from current NFL players and legends, shop for merchandise from the NFL Shop and participate in interactive games. The experience is complete with photo opportunities with the Vince Lombardi Trophy, a 40-yard dash against NFL players on LED screens and a Super Bowl display showcasing all 57 Super Bowl rings.
When the actual game takes place, there will be dozens of viewing parties around Las Vegas, with each resort and casino hosting some sort of activation.
“We’ve worked with the NFL on this process for two and a half years now and they’re really creative,” Hill said. “They bring a bunch of creative people, both inside the organization itself and the sponsors and the networks. We bring a bunch of creative thoughts — not just from the LVCVA, but our resort partners are thinking about these things all the time.”
Hill says Super Bowl weekend in Las Vegas has always led to full occupancy at the resorts and hotels around the city and this year will only up the ante. The LVCVA expects about 340,000 people to descend on Las Vegas throughout the week.
“We may have 10,000 or 20,000 more people in town because the Super Bowl’s here,” Hill said. “But it’s just a different crowd and a different audience for the Super Bowl. The economic benefit to Las Vegas is that the spend patterns of the folks who are coming to those marquee events is higher than our average visitor. And for the Super Bowl in particular, you do see occupancy increases and spend increases through the entire week.”
Hill and his LVCVA team aren’t worried about hosting the actual game itself at Allegiant Stadium. Where the stadium gets radically different is outside, where the lots that would typically be used for parking will now be used for tailgate parties.
“The difference between a regular season game and a Super Bowl is that in a regular season game, maybe 7,000 people feel like they’re a VIP when they’re at that game,” Hill explained. “At a Super Bowl, 62,000 people feel like they’re a VIP. And we’re the only city in the world that has the chance to treat 62,000 people like VIPs at the same time. So that’s really our challenge, to make sure we do that.”
While the number of actual people in the stands at kickoff is determined by the NFL (hospitality and media seating take up a few thousand seats), what is certain is that the ticket prices could break records.
“The fact that it’s here and the experience that you can have around the game, is driving interest to a level that’s off the chart,” Hill said. “This is on the world stage and it’s an opportunity for us to show off, prove ourselves and show what we can do. And we’re focused on making that happen.”
Keep Them Coming Back
Almost as important for Las Vegas hosting its first Super Bowl in the present, is to look ahead to the future. A success in 2024 could lead to more Super Bowls in the city as it hopes to become part of the regular rotation. During a recent appearance on the SportsTravel podcast, Sam Joffray, president and chief executive officer of the Las Vegas Super Bowl Host Committee, explained the main goals for Las Vegas.
“There’s a very simple equation for our measure of success,” he said. “On one side of the equation, we want to make sure the NFL contingency — the owners, teams, fans, the media and sponsors — are all leaving Las Vegas saying, ‘wow, the Super Bowl should be in Vegas every year.’ On the other side of that equation, we need to make sure that Las Vegas and Nevada — the hotel partners, non-profits, residents, employees, LVCVA, the stadium and the Raiders — are saying it was amazing and asking how fast we can get the Super Bowl back here. If we can make those two things work, that’s certainly our goal.”
There’s an air of excitement across the region as Super Bowl week arrives. But along with that elation, there is a mixture of the anxiousness that comes with the unknown of hosting the massive event for the first time. Joffray, who’s been to every Super Bowl over the last 25 years in some capacity, hopes that a steady hand will lead to great success and more Super Bowls in the desert sooner than later.
“There’s a reason Miami has hosted 11 (Super Bowls), and there’s a reason New Orleans is hosting its 11th next year,” Joffray said. “We just have to create that reason why, in hopefully a couple of decades, that Las Vegas will be approaching double digits of hosting the Super Bowl.”
Joffray and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority have spent the past two years gearing up for this event. While a runway of only two years was much less than a city typically has to plan a Super Bowl — much less its first one — everybody involved is ready for a success and a lot of money flowing in.
“The estimate early on from an economic impact study by LVCVA far exceeded $500 million, which is consistent with any host city,” Joffray said. “When you take into account the unique nature of Vegas, we’re confident that we will well surpass that number. And that doesn’t include the media and PR value that’s delivered as a destination city and the residual impact of people coming to Vegas for the Super Bowl and saying, ‘wow, I had no idea Vegas is this alive on Super Bowl weekend.’”
SuperBook for a Super Bowl
Jay Kornegay, the executive vice president of operations for the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, has been in the Las Vegas hospitality and gambling space for 37 years. He’s seen it all in the city … except for a Super Bowl in Las Vegas.
“I honestly never thought we’d see this,” Kornegay said. “We understood during the decades prior to the Raiders announcing that they were coming here the stance that the league had against sports gambling and we respected that. Our top priority is to protect the integrity of the game.”
A marriage between the NFL and Las Vegas that was once unthinkable due to the taboo nature of sports betting is now very much a reality.
“We’ve always said that we are a city that’s built to host the Super Bowl and we will prove that this year,” Kornegay said. “We are seeing more VIPs confirming that they’re coming into town and the town itself is expecting more VIPs and more celebrities than ever before because the game is being played here.”
Westgate is home of the SuperBook, a cathedral for any sports bettor. The massive video board at Westgate has more than 4,250 square feet of digital space, which will all be focused on Super Bowl 58. Kornegay says there will be more fan activations and watch parties at Westgate than any Super Bowl in history. The resort is opening its 1,500-seat International Theater for the first time with free, first come-first served seating, food and drink specials and prize giveaways.
As for the gambling numbers, Kornegay expects record-breaking action. He says the amount of money wagered for this game could break the mark of $180 million that Super Bowl 56 between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals set in 2022.
“I would expect a record handle in not only Nevada, not only at Westgate, but also for the whole country to set records,” Kornegay said. “Between hosting a Super Bowl and March Madness, this first quarter of 2024 is going to be vital to us. We are, as always, going to make sure our “A” game is ready to go and that we put on a show like only Las Vegas can to keep our visitors entertained and satisfied to make sure they keep coming back.”
Las Vegas is also hosting another professional sporting event in the days leading to the Super Bowl as LIV Golf will be playing an event at Las Vegas Country Club across the street from Westgate from February 8–10.
“We’re working with LIV and a lot of their employees and caddies are staying here at Westgate,” Kornegay said. “They have a Pro-Am on Wednesday and then they have the tournament on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. They’re going to have concessions and things going on right across the street, as we will here in our parking lot in the SuperBook entrance. So that kind of kicks off next week as we go into the Super Bowl weekend.”