Las Vegas used to be off-limit to most major league sports due to fears over how athletes and the potential to place bets might mix.
That has changed as sports betting has become legal in multiple states, making its risks to the integrity of games no longer a Las Vegas problem, but more or less a national one.
That has opened the door for Sin City to add the NHL’s Las Vegas Golden Knights playing at T-Mobile Arena on the Strip in the heart of a number of (MGM) – Get MGM Resorts International Report Resorts International MGM and Caesars Entertainment (CZR) – Get Caesars Entertainment Inc Report properties.
Now, the former Oakland Raiders play in Allegiant Stadium just off the strip which has been a driver not just for Caesars, MGM, and Strip-based properties, but pretty much all of Vegas’ hotels and casinos.
That may be just the start, with the Oakland Athletics have negotiating with a number of Las Vegas Strip and Strip-adjacent sites, and an NBA-ready arena has been funded for a site on the North Strip.
Add in the heavy rumors that Formula 1 will come to Las Vegas as well as the already-announced Super Bowl headed to Sin City in 2024 and it’s easy to see why MGM CEO Bill Hornbuckle believes sports has become a huge driver for his brand and his competitors.
Sports Drives Las Vegas Tourism
Hornbuckle has been very excited by what the addition of the Raiders to the city has done for its hotels and casinos.
“If you look at the Raiders, though, as a simple example, remember what happened there. Half of their seat licenses went to people out of town. The folks in town are now selling those seats, by the way, to other visitors,” he said during his company’s fourth-quarter earnings call.
“So the Raiders have talked about 60. Their numbers, not ours, 68% of those seats on a game day are the out-of-towners, big pickup in millennials.”
Allegiant Stadium holds about 65,000 people, so that’s over 40,000 out-of-town visitors headed to Las Vegas for each game.
The CEO also noted that the Knights are a similar draw, albeit with fewer fans, but roughly five times the games, not counting the playoffs.
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He believes that his company and the city, in general, have learned a lot about how to host sporting events. That’s going to be key, with a number of major events that are planned for or could end up coming to Las Vegas in future years.
“And we have become, without a doubt, and we’re talking about NCAA regional finals, we’re talking about the Final Four someday, we got the Super Bowl here in ’24,” he said.
“Arguably, we’ve become America’s, if not the world’s, most popular sports destination because it just isn’t a three-hour game, it’s a three-day event,” he said.
The current sports layout has been especially good for MGM, according to its CEO, and likely Caesars, which has lots of nearby properties.
“And so, we’re enjoying that, obviously, particularly with the South and Strip and Allegiant. Starting with T-Mobile on to Allegiant, all of that is all us. And so we are sandwiched right in the middle of some really exciting stuff,” he added.
Las Vegas Thrives on Events
Fans traveling to away games — specifically meaningful ones — happens across all of sports, but few cities offer the draw, amenities, hotel, and travel options that Las Vegas does.
It’s a roughly eight-hour drive from Oakland to Las Vegas (550 or so miles) or a very quick flight.
People who live in pretty much any American city can get to Las Vegas easily and a lot of discount airlines fly there.
When it comes to places to stay and travel options, Las Vegas and Orlando are probably one and two, depending upon what you want to do.
But for fans traveling for a sporting event, Sin City may have the edge, because of its reputation for adult fun and the presence of legal betting.
Sports gives people an excuse to go to Las Vegas and Las Vegas has become a pretty easy city to get to with rooms available at a variety of price points. It’s easy to see how Knights and Raiders game (and maybe eventually A’s and an NBA team games) drive steady traffic to Caesars, MGM and the other Las Vegas players.