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Super Bowl’s Las Vegas Debut: Was It Good for the City and the NFL?

  • The first Super Bowl in Las Vegas completed the NFL’s acceptance of the city.
  • Las Vegas will no doubt be vying for more Super Bowls in the future.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The debut of Las Vegas as a Super Bowl host city is officially over, after a week unlike any other before it. The NFL fully embraced the home of sports betting, complete with league branding taking over casinos and sportsbooks, as well as some of the hottest bars and nightclubs.

Now, the question is: Will the NFL bring its title game back to Sin City? And if so, when? It could return as soon as 2028 (Super Bowl hosts are set through ’27). The NFL loved Las Vegas as a host city due to its world-class hotels, entertainment, and dining. But there is a powerful business element in the Nevada desert that doesn’t want the Big Game coming back for an encore, sources say. Namely, casino operators who’ve run Vegas behind the scenes since the days of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack.

For billion-dollar casinos, the Super Bowl attracts mostly the wrong kind of clientele. They want to attract wealthy gambling “whales” from around the world looking to spend millions at the betting table—not Joe and Jane Chiefs fans from Kansas City and San Francisco.

Organizers like the Las Vegas Super Bowl Host Committee will surely argue about the much-heralded economic impact (often hard-to-verify figures in the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars) generated by the Big Game. But casino operators are not impressed by visitors spending money at other local sporting events or souvenir and convenience stores. They want that money spent on slots, blackjack, and craps tables.

Host committees need to raise tens of millions in public and private funding when bidding for the Super Bowl. Word is that Las Vegas organizers already had some issues securing that funding this year, due to the city’s slim corporate base. The next time they ask casinos for money to host another Super Bowl, they might get a firm no, sources tell FOS.

Too Much Fun?

The hype around Super Bowl LVIII showed that if any city can swallow something as big as the Super Bowl, it’s Las Vegas. U2 continued its high-demand residency at the Sphere, and a plethora of other sports tried to capitalize on the influx of people—from hockey to golf to UFC and even slap fighting.  

If you were in the area around Allegiant Stadium, you knew the Super Bowl was in town. But some other parts of the city remained virtually untouched by the NFL. It reminiscent of the first—and only—time the Super Bowl touched down in New York City in 2014. If you weren’t around the NFL activities in Times Square or the league hotel in Midtown, you’d have barely been aware the Big Game was in town. In Vegas, there was not a typical central gathering spot—what the league used to unofficially call Super Bowl Central. There was a sense that those in town were simply going from casino to casino.

Despite the unique challenges and offerings presented by Las Vegas, it’s still hard to see the city not having a chance to get another Super Bowl. It is great advertising for the area and continues to legitimize Vegas as a booming sports town. It’s not unreasonable to think the Super Bowl could return once every eight to 10 years, even becoming part of the NFL’s unofficial rotation of regular stops each February.

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