LAS VEGAS ( Associated Press) — The NFL brings the traveling circus that’s its draft to a town that has nothing to offer — consisting of a 300-pound football player posing as the showgirl and circus clown above the fountain at the Bellagio Hotel. Pose together – Very strange.
As the draft begins Thursday, the marriage between the league and the gambling city that has been shown for so long is almost complete, with only one Super Bowl remaining in 2024 to formally complete the partnership.
Those who gather to see where their team is headed next year will get the usual Draft Day theatrics amidst the bright lights of the casino. Commissioner Roger Goodell will be ready to announce and greet the first rounders – dressed in their best suits and new team hats – and everyone will see that his team has just made it to the playoffs.
Interestingly, in a city built on betting, very little of it will be on the draft itself – and much less on draft day. And, no, it’s not because the NFL objected to the idea of fans shouting in glee because he had a good chance at the No. 5 pick.
Blame it on the caution of Nevada gambling officials, who have never liked the idea of allowing betting on anything other than actual sporting events in the sports books that line the Strip. While other states offer more bets for sports betting, Nevada has since 2017 only allowed bets on drafts—and all bets that include the player’s name—to be made at least 24 hours before the draft. needed.
Also, luckily a bookmaker is willing to take over a hundred bucks on an event where the inside information can potentially give a bettor a huge edge.
“This may be my least favorite event to book,” said Jay Kornge, a longtime oddsmaker who runs Westgate Superbooks. “We’ve only done it for a few years, but we haven’t done well at it.”
That’s largely, Kornge said, because so-called “sharps” in the past have given bookmakers tips on picks before finding out themselves — the one thing every sports book operator fears most.
It is estimated that, even in Las Vegas, betting on the draft is not a top priority for most of the thousands of fans who will gather over three days for the annual spectacle. They’re mostly there to see whose fate their team can turn, and to be part of a scene that’s becoming increasingly familiar ever since the NFL decided to take the draft on the road in 2015.
More than 600,000 people attended the largest draft party ever in Nashville in 2019. Last year, Cleveland hosted a smaller but still respectable crowd of 140,000 over three days.
What happens in Vegas, however, will be difficult to match at any future site. The city, which has been hosting big events for a long time, will have no trouble making it a spectacular spectacle.
Future stars of the NFL will be introduced on a stage adjacent to the Kaiser High Roller observation wheel, where free concerts each night will feature acts such as Weezer, Ice Cube, and Marshmallow. The red carpet walk will take place on a stage above the spectacular fountains at the Bellagio resort, where artists from Cirque du Soleil and Blue Man Group will also perform.
There will also be a pop-up sports book on the site, although fans will have to be satisfied betting baseball and NBA playoffs as they won’t be able to bet on the number of quarterbacks drawn in the first round.
In fact, the draft highlights how the NFL and Las Vegas are so tightly linked that it’s easy to forget the Supreme Court ruling that opened the way for legal sports betting across the country just four years ago.
At that time, the NFL would not even allow players inside the casino for events. Now fans can not only bet on their team but can also go inside a casino and play a slot machine adorned with their team’s helmet.
The NFL’s hypocrisy about sports betting has been nodding for so many years, though it was no surprise that the league embraced it after the floodgates opened.
Caesars, the de facto sponsor of the draft, is a major NFL sponsor and one of three gambling companies that jumped on board when sports betting was added as a sponsor category to the league. Game books are being made in NFL stadiums and there is no NFL game that goes by without a reminder to spectators about point spreads or the odds of either team winning.
It’s easy money for the NFL. But it’s also a comeback for a city that helped create the league it is today, which for years by offering easily understandable point spreads was used by fans and their favorite illegal bookmakers across the country.
Now Las Vegas and the NFL have joined together for good in the common pursuit of fan dollars.
The only real surprise is how normal it all seems.