Gaming Strategy
Featured Stories
Legal News Financial News Casino Opening and Remodeling News Gaming Industry Executives Search News Subscribe
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Related Links
Search Our Archive of Gaming Articles 

Casinos Cash in on Super Bowl Fans

30 January 2004

by Liz Benston

LAS VEGAS -- It's that time of year again, when tourists put on their party helmets and make the pilgrimage to Las Vegas to watch the Super Bowl.

While the Super Bowl remains one of the most bet-upon events in history, it's the small bettors -- the $10 to $100 bets -- that will carry the day in Las Vegas, experts say. For many of these fans, the big game is less about concentrating on football and more about partying at myriad admission-only events taking place across town.

With the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority airing TV ads touting Las Vegas as a better place to watch the game than Houston, many casinos will once again be rolling out the red carpet for armchair quarterbacks willing to spend upwards of $10 for the experience of watching the game on a big screen, downing unlimited hot dogs and beer and maybe even catching a glimpse of their favorite NFL star.

"Everybody comes out for the Super Bowl," said Bill Mandel, publisher of the Viva Las Vegas consumer newsletter. "You're better off watching the game in Las Vegas for the social aspect. Where else can you see the game and get food and drinks for 10 bucks?"

One planned party, however, has been kicked out of the running by the National Football League. The "Rockin' Super Bowl Party with Blue Oyster Cult," planend at the Orleans Arena, has been cancelled. The NFL has been issuing letters to casinos and other venues, warning them of potential copyright infringement if they turn a Super Bowl party into something resembling a Pay-Per-View event.

Regardless, an estimated 274,000 visitors will make the trip this weekend based on an average hotel occupancy rate of 91.7 percent -- up from 256,000 visitors and an average occupancy rate of 88.2 percent last year, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Those visitors will spend an estimated $97 million on rooms, dining, retail and other non-gambling activities, up from $90.8 million a year ago, the tourism authority says.

Bettors wagered some $73 million on last year's Super Bowl game, according to figures from the Gaming Control Board. Total bets have fallen over the past several years as Internet gambling sites offer better rates for high-rollers and more convenience than crowded sports books, experts say. But non-gambling spending -- thanks in part to the proliferation of parties and other events -- is on the rise.

This Sunday, Caesars Palace will host an appearance by Hall of Fame coach Mike Ditka in its sports book the afternoon of the big game, where Ditka will throw out autographed footballs to those who correctly answer trivia questions. Ditka will also make an appearance for guests at a private party at the resort.

Some properties have become known for parties open to anyone willing to pay a fee.

At the Imperial Palace, which boasts the largest number of proposition bets "on the planet," the sold-out party cost $60 and buys large-screen TV viewing, a "Super Buffet," T-shirt, beer and door prizes. "They love it," Imperial Palace spokesman Jeremy Handel said. "It brings a lot of people who don't normally gamble. And it keeps the game exciting because there's almost a bet decided with every play."

Up the street, the Riviera's "Best Party in Town" is one of its largest and most expensive. For $135 each, up to 3,000 revelers can live it up with an unlimited bar and an appearance by former NFL greats Deacon Jones, Jim Langer, Pete Johnson and Billy Kilmer. Cheerleaders and private skyboxes complement the indoor football atmosphere.

"We get an awful lot of repeat customers," spokesman John Neeland said, adding that the food is "not just beer and hot dogs."

Other properties, including those owned by MGM MIRAGE and locals' giant Station Casinos Inc., will go heavy on invitation-only parties for VIP gamblers and other guests this year.

MGM MIRAGE will have public parties at only three of its half dozen or so major resorts -- including MGM Grand, New York-New York and the Golden Nugget, a downtown casino recently sold to entrepreneurs Tim Poster and Tom Breitling. All of its resorts will have private parties -- no change from last year, said Scott Ghertner, the company's director of sports and promotions.

Station Casinos is offering fewer public parties and more private Super Bowl events than in years past to reward loyal customers, officials say.

Not everyone will be partying down in the casino.

Mandalay Bay, which is setting up a ballroom for public viewing and will also have a private party for VIPs, expects that many guests will be watching the game this year from their hotel rooms.

Each room in the property's new 928-room hotel tower features a separate sitting room with a 42-inch plasma-screen TV -- an improvement over existing Mandalay Bay rooms and aimed at people who prefer creature comforts to a room near the casino. Both the tower and the resort are expecting 100 percent occupancy over the weekend.

"In years past you didn't want to be in your room during the Super Bowl," spokesman Gordon Absher said. "This year there are going to be a lot of people glued to their chairs in front of their plasma-screen TVs."

< Gaming News