Las Vegas, with its wide promenades, spectacular hotels and complexes and pounding air of pleasure and unreality, has long been synonymous with brilliant casino experiences, the high life and wealthy jet-setting. However, this city is no one-trick wonder and the people and businesses there are always looking for the next hot opportunity, the next way to make a dollar. Constantly diversifying, embracing new ideas as they gain popularity with global audiences and working hard to simultaneously win its reputation in many arenas, Las Vegas is an impressive platform for a multitude of sports. So, while gamblers arrive in their droves each day, which sports fans are also taking their seats for big shows in Sin City?
For many boxers a Las Vegas fight is the ultimate fight. The MGM is the venue most closely associated with the sport, with big matches like the recent Kahn V Alvarez selling out almost as soon as the tickets went on sale. Floyd Mayweather, widely consider to be the boxer of his generation, resides in Las Vegas and his face is depicted in full 20-storey glory as a mural adorning the side of the MGM building. Each time he fights it is worth a staggering $100 million to Las Vegas; no wonder he’s so popular.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) takes place at Mandalay Bay Events Center, a modern venue that can seat some 12,000 people. Every UFC match is held inside this cavernous space, which is also used to host performances from megastars like Katy Perry and epic TV events. Each time a UFC fight takes place attendance goes up once more.
Of course people go to Las Vegas to play poker, but did you know that they also go to watch their favourite professionals compete? The WSOP 2016 culminates in Las Vegas, and really is the premiere poker tournament. Sponsored by 888Poker, this year’s tournament was the largest-ever. Drawing in over 100,000 of the game’s best players with a first place prize of $8million and an overall prize pool of $63million. And, once the spectating is over, those same crowds contribute a little extra to the Sin City economy when they try their own hand at poker, with a variety of other poker tournaments at across the city for players of all skill levels. It’s a win/win all round and, as well as drawing real-life crowds, the pros’ games are also often broadcast, further letting the world know just how great Las Vegas is.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing’s top racing series. A thrill-packed event beloved of fans from every corner of the US, it is a real highlight in the Las Vegas events calendar, attracting crowds of 160,000 plus every year.
Cowboys love Las Vegas and the rodeo events the city hosts are the sport’s most high-profile. National bull riders world finals and the national finals rodeo are both held annually in Las Vegas, and attract huge crowds. The Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Built Ford Tough World Finals take place on the Strip in the Las Vegas Arena, a $375 million, 20,000-seat venue.
E-sports, far from being confined to the limits of the internet, are real world events and tournaments are now attracting fans who are prepared for serious travel. Online gaming communities are coming together to watch their heroes compete in the flesh and Las Vegas has been fast to recognise the commercial opportunity this represents.
Time and time again Las Vegas proves its chameleon-like capacity to adapt to changing entertainment trends. This unfaltering spirit and sheer love of sports and entertainment is just one of many reasons this city is such a fantastically colourful and pleasurable place to visit.