Indy Super Bowl: Will hosting the ‘Big Game’ be lucrative for Las Vegas?
I was a sports writer covering UNLV football and minor league baseball in the 1980s. I never imagined stepping onto the field of the 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium on Monday for the traditional media day with players and coaches for Super Bowl LVIII — in Las Vegas.
I’m converting Indy Gaming to Indy Super Bowl this week with some news and notes surrounding the game. I’ll have a few feature stories later this week about fan experiences and wagering.
My pick? Members of my extended Santa Barbara family are die-hard 49ers fans, but it’s tough to bet against Patrick Mahomes. Chiefs 27, 49ers 24.
The Super Bowl and Las Vegas have long been intertwined.
If you couldn’t attend the NFL championship contest in person, you came to the Strip for the parties and the ability to wager legally on the game.
Even after 2018, when a U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed states to legalize sports betting, Vegas hasn’t been forgotten. The state set a record for total Super Bowl wagers in 2022 with fans betting a combined $179 million on the game — a figure sportsbook operators expect to exceed this weekend when the San Francisco 49ers face the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium.
What does having the Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas mean economically?
Most analysts are predicting anywhere from $600 million to $700 million in combined direct and incremental spending by visitors and locals surrounding the weeklong game celebration that began with Monday’s Opening Night event that kicked off the Super Bowl hoopla and drew nearly 30,000 fans paying $30 a ticket to enter Allegiant. The family-friendly NFL Super Bowl Experience at Mandalay Bay runs through Saturday and has a ticket price of $50 per person.
The biggest question is whether or not visitation associated with having the Super Bowl in Las Vegas would displace visitors who traditionally come in for the weekend of the game.
Jeremy Aguero, a principal analyst with Las Vegas-based advisory firm Applied Analysis, provided a study that the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority used when it pitched the NFL on hosting the 2024 Super Bowl three years ago.
In that report, he cited “displaced visitor impacts” that suggested upward of $78 million could be lost from the estimated $515 million directly spent by those coming for the game.
But Super Bowl LVIII has brought the highest average hotel room rates the market has ever seen, along with predictions of record spending on non-gaming activities.
Most of the fans attending Monday’s Opening Night event at Allegiant Stadium said they were in Las Vegas for events surrounding the game. Sunday’s ticket prices are in the four-figure and five-figure price range, the highest ticket price for any Super Bowl.
“Even though you're only going to have 60,000 people at the game, I think something like 120,000 people are going to be in town specifically because the game is being played here,” Aguero said.
He said he believes Las Vegas visitors who have been coming for years to watch the game on the Strip won’t change their habits.
“Imagine how many things have been learned over the past 58 years about how to activate [Las Vegas] for the Super Bowl,” he said. “The Super Bowl is different from other events.”
We know who MGM executive Gladney is rooting for
Growing up in the Bay Area, longtime MGM Resorts International executive Tony Gladney naturally became a fan of the San Francisco 49ers. He said one of his favorite childhood photos is of him wearing a 49ers uniform and posing with his grandfather.
Gladney, a standout wide receiver for UNLV in the 1980s, was able to live out his dream of playing with the 49ers in 1987. He caught four passes for 60 yards in two games in his only pro season, but the experience allowed Gladney to make some life decisions.
“That was something that I dreamed about doing,” said Gladney, MGM’s vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion. “I was also able to make some decisions that helped me to catapult my business career.”
Gladney, 59, returned to Las Vegas, where he has spent 30 years in corporate roles at MGM and Caesars Entertainment.
“Being able to reach some type of pinnacle sports career and to be able to play for my hometown team was an amazing experience,” Gladney said. “It was a dream come true for me to have an opportunity to step on the field in the NFL.”
For the past two years, Gladney maintained neutrality as part of the Las Vegas Super Bowl Host Committee, serving as the co-chairman of the community affairs committee.
That role ends and he won’t have to stay on the fence.
“I will absolutely be rooting for the Niners on Sunday,” Gladney said.
Slot machines on Radio Row? Only in Vegas
Aristocrat Gaming brought a small taste of the casino floor to Super Bowl’s Radio Row, which houses more than 100 radio and TV journalists and podcasters.
The gaming equipment provider secured a spot inside the nearly 170,000-square-foot Mandalay Bay events center ballroom and decorated it as a mini football field for three versions of its NFL-themed slot machines — all set to free-to-play demonstration mode for media, athletes and celebrities visiting the space that is the center of pregame activity.
Aristocrat struck a licensing agreement with the NFL in 2021 to create the slot machines. After hiding the prototypes at the request of the NFL during the Global Gaming Expo in 2022, Aristocrat put the games on display last fall in a football-themed space inside the trade show.
The games have various football-themed bonus features, such as the red zone and field goal challenges. Players can customize their gaming experience with the logos and helmets of any of the 32 NFL teams. The machines are also programmed with six minutes of video highlights for each team.
But on Radio Row, the default themes were, naturally, set on the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers.
49ers Aiyuk is the only Super Bowl participant from Nevada
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk was surprised to learn he is the only player from Nevada in Sunday’s Super Bowl.
Aiyuk graduated from Robert McQueen High School in Reno before playing college football at Arizona State University. During Monday’s media day at Allegiant Stadium, which was part of the Opening Night event that drew almost 30,000 football fans, Aiyuk said football has twice brought him back to Nevada.
In 2018, he played in the Las Vegas Bowl for Arizona State, which lost to Fresno State 31-20. Then came the Super Bowl.
Aiyuk is only the second football player from a Northern Nevada high school to be selected in the first round by an NFL team. The 49ers took him as the 25th overall pick in the 2020 draft.
Aiyuk said he “loves Northern Nevada,” adding that Reno “shaped” him.
49ers QB Purdy has a history with Las Vegas
Super Bowl LVIII will be the first time San Francisco starting quarterback Brock Purdy has led the 49ers into a game at Allegiant Stadium.
But Purdy has some history with Allegiant and Las Vegas.
In September 2021, Purdy quarterbacked Iowa State to a 48-3 win over UNLV at Allegiant Stadium, throwing for 288 yards and three touchdowns. The game drew 35,183 fans, the largest crowd to see a UNLV football game in the three years the team has played at Allegiant.
It was the first time UNLV used Allegiant’s second-level seating sections. The venue, however, could have been mistaken for Ames, Iowa, given that 70 percent to 80 percent of the crowd was outfitted in the school’s cardinal and gold colors.
Eight months later, Purdy’s name was mentioned in Las Vegas, but he wasn’t in the city. On the final day of the 2022 NFL Draft, which took place at Caesars Forum on the Strip, Purdy earned the title of “Mr. Irrelevant” when the 49ers chose him as the 262nd pick, the final player drafted.
Meanwhile, Purdy’s younger brother, Chubba Purdy, who quarterbacked Nebraska last season, transferred to Nevada in January and will play for the Wolf Pack this upcoming season.
Mahomes hails Raiders’ Max Crosby for playing through injury
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will play his second game this season at Allegiant Stadium, but the team will be using the Las Vegas Raiders’ locker room.
The Chiefs are the designated home team for Super Bowl LVIII and it showed Monday with Mahomes attracting one of the larger media crowds during Monday’s Opening Night event.
Mahomes quarterbacked the Chiefs to a 31-17 comeback win on Nov. 26 against the Raiders overcoming a 14-0 deficit. He was sacked once by Raiders defensive end Max Crosby and the pair jawed at each other several times.
Following the game, Mahomes said he has “a ton of respect” for Crosby, who was playing despite a severely injured knee.
“I know every single time I go up against him, I’m going to get everything he has,” Mahomes said. “He's a dog. The fact that he played today speaks to who he is. That’s the type of guy you want on your team.”