All of the lights: Operators count down to Las Vegas F1 race

By Peter Lynch

Step aside Monaco, there is a new high-roller in town. The Formula One world has almost gone into meltdown following the announcement that Las Vegas has been added to the race calendar.

The famous neon lights will provide the perfect setting for the night race, which the sport’s organisers have confirmed will take place in November 2023. It becomes one of three US events on the F1 calendar, along with Austin and Miami, the latter of which debuts in May.

But, as with all things Vegas, the event will no doubt attempt to be bigger and better than all the others, both inside and outside of the US. And with drivers flying past world-renowned hotels like the Venetian, Caesars Palace and the Bellagio, this might just be possible.

Of course, it isn’t the first time that F1 has ventured to the Entertainment Capital of the World. In 1981 and 1982, the Caesars Palace car park played host to a makeshift circuit.

But with many US states legalising sports betting as the months go on, this event will be a whole new experience for the gambling industry, which will aim to be one of the main beneficiaries, along with the race winner of course.

One other major difference is the fact that drivers will now be battling it out on the streets, with hundreds of thousands of onlookers expected to be watching on from nearby viewing spots in and around the Strip, along with the many millions tuning in from home.

First and foremost, one major beneficiary of this highly-anticipated event will unsurprisingly be the land-based industry. It’s easy to see why Founding Partners Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts International, and Wynn Las Vegas have all invested heavily in this project.

While issues like everyday road and pedestrian traffic will have to be limited to accommodate the event, the huge, perhaps almost uncontrollable numbers of visitors specifically there for race weekend will be off the charts. It will be an unmissable event, meaning fans will flock to the Strip in huge numbers.

And that means hotels, restaurants, bars - and other such venues owned by high-profile operators - will be welcoming guests from all over the world, many of which will have been saving up for the trip. Wallets will be opened, and much fun will be had by these high-paying guests.

Inevitably, casinos will benefit from this too, with guests flooding in and out throughout the day and of course the night. It will be a welcome boost for a region that, like the rest of the world, has suffered from the restrictions amid the pandemic. The drivers may even pop their heads in for a quick flutter.

While issues like everyday road and pedestrian traffic will have to be limited to accommodate the event, the huge, perhaps almost uncontrollable numbers of visitors specifically there for race weekend will be off the charts

On further inspection, though, land-based operators won’t be the only winners. It’s Vegas. It’s under the lights. It’s a sponsor’s dream in terms of both exposure and promotion. Millions will be watching from near and far.

But sports betting operators will also want a piece of the cake. While F1 may not rival the likes of the NFL or NBA in terms of revenues generated, the figures could still be record-breaking for the sport. The gambling industry has seen many clever and innovative marketing ploys from operators in recent times, for example with March Madness 2022. 

But one of the most successful marketing strategies within F1 has taken place outside of the world of gambling. Netflix series Formula 1: Drive to Survive has had a simply incredible impact on F1, with the behind-the-scenes footage bringing in huge amounts of new fans to the sport, particularly among the younger generation, which had previously been hard to crack.

Golf is reportedly following suit, having witnessed just how effective a TV series like this can be. It will most certainly play into the hands of sports betting companies. A quick glance at figures posted by F1 shows that it was the fastest-growing major sports league in the world in terms of social media follower growth in 2021.

And focusing on the USA alone, the country reported a 58% year-on-year rise in season cumulative audience for TV, with unique viewers (the number of individuals that watch at least one race during the season) up 53%. The 2021 USA Grand Prix meanwhile posted the highest Grand Prix attendance ever for race weekend, with 400,000 spectators packing into the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

The gambling industry in general is slowly but surely realising the potential of F1, with recent examples of partnerships between the two involving Playmaker Capital promoting its brands at the upcoming Sao Paulo Grand Prix, and Hard Rock International entering into an agreement with South Florida Motorsports to become a founding partner of the Miami Grand Prix.

Moreover, the number of US states to have legalised sports betting could even grow by the time that all-important first lap gets underway in Las Vegas. 

If more excitement and anticipation was needed, the 14-turn track features three straights and will run for 3.8 miles, with top speeds expected to hit around 212mph (342km/h).

“That’s going to be a pretty hardcore event” and “That’s going to be insane” were the words uttered by Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly respectively upon hearing the news, with the protagonists of F1 evidently buzzing with the exciting announcement.

And that excitement is shared by many within the gambling industry, with several companies undoubtedly already preparing everything they need in order to benefit from the event from a financial standpoint.

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