The NFL Draft wrapped up in Nashville on Saturday and was immediately making more news over the weekend.
For the first time ever, and only months before the Raiders unveil their new stadium next year, the draft will be held in Las Vegas from April 23-25.
It appears the league has not only accepted sports betting but is now actively embracing it. First a team moves to Vegas – and now the draft.
For sports bettors, this offers a glimpse into how much the league has reversed course in recent years.
Vegas and the NFL make for interesting partners
Even just a few years ago, the marriage of the NFL and Las Vegas seemed unlikely. The Raiders may have announced their move to the city, but the league remained opposed expanded sports betting.
Other teams have followed that lead. The Dallas Cowboys added Oklahoma’s WinStar World Casino as a partner in September. The New York Jets signed a deal with MGM in October, and the Baltimore Ravens signed with the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore.
It’s a good bet more will follow. A site for the draft hasn’t been announced yet, but according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, NFL officials have so far met with representatives from MGM and Caesars.
A look at draft day on the Strip
So what does an NFL Draft in Las Vegas look like? Certainly there be plenty of action in the sportsbooks and a crowded Strip and downtown scene.
Vegas has hosted many major events over the years. The draft becomes the latest to show it’s a major metropolitan city, not just a home to gambling joints.
“The city was built to host people and we pride ourselves in doing it better than anyone else,” says Lisa Motley, director of sports marketing and special events for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “We are excited to host the NFL Draft as it continues to demonstrate how we have quickly become the sports capital of the world.”
City officials expect more than 250,000 visitors during the event based on numbers from Philadelphia, Chicago, Dallas, and Nashville. That includes an economic impact of more than $100 million.
The National Finals Rodeo may offer an idea of what to expect. While events are underway at UNLV’s Thomas and Mack Center, parties are held at properties all over the city.
The draft may be similar with a main event location and special events all over the city. In sheer numbers, a Vegas draft may even dwarf other cities’ major efforts.
“To put it in perspective, when the Super Bowl was held in Minneapolis, they had about 100,000 attendees,” Motley says. “That same year, Las Vegas hosted more than 300,000 visitors to watch the game. Las Vegas is an aspirational destination and the NFL Draft is a bucket list experience so we anticipate this event will be highly attended.”
South Point gears up for a big 2020
As the host of a major sportsbook and VSIN network, the South Point Casino is uniquely positioned for the draft. A trip to the property may offer bettors a chance at draft prop bets and futures wagering.
One thing is certain: casino officials expect big things.
“With it being a year away, no specifics have been discussed, but I could see us collaborating with our in-house VSIN network and hosting a handicapping type seminar, just as we have for the Super Bowl and March Madness this past year that were both very successful,” general manager Ryan Growney says.
“I do think with the increased media attention that comes along with this event, you’ll see more props being put out to attract some of that additional attention. Each book will try to outdo the other, which is why there are now 20 pages of Super Bowl prop bets.”
Growney believes the draft becomes an opportunity for Las Vegas to officially become a real NFL city.
“This is the culmination of years of hard work bringing the Raiders to town, and with this being the first official NFL event ever held in the city, I think a lot of people are going to want to be a part of it,” he says. “No one knows how to put on events like Las Vegas. This event will be for the diehard football fans and we’ll show them the best time possible.”
The draft’s popularity continues to grow
The NFL Draft, and the league as a whole for that matter, shows no signs of losing popularity. The annual event produces big viewing numbers with ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, NFL Network, and ESPN Deportes all offering coverage.
The Hollywood Reporter notes coverage of the three-day spectacle this year produced a record average of 6.1 million viewers. That’s an increase of 11 percent from of 5.5 million in 2018, the previous high.
Millions of fans also head online to follow their favorite teams. Sin City and sports betting will now be a major part of that. That media melee offers a big opportunity.
“Las Vegas will be the first West Coast city ever to host the NFL Draft and this was the first year that the next year’s host city was announced prior to the event,” Motley says. “So a Las Vegas team was able to attend the events in Nashville and meet with city officials, NFL organizers, and security to really get a first-hand look at how it all works. We think this puts us in a great position to learn from the Nashville event to make it the best it can be in 2020.”
Raiders owner Mark Davis believes the draft may lead to something even bigger.
“We’re looking at it as the kickoff to our inaugural season there,” Davis told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “I’m really excited for all of Las Vegas to see what it’s getting by having the NFL. They might think they know, but it’s even bigger and better than that. Hopefully, having the draft will set the stage for Las Vegas eventually hosting a Super Bowl.”