On Tuesday morning, Scott Thompson, the comedian known as Carrot Top, was drinking tea in his dressing room at the Luxor Hotel and Casino, where he has been a headliner for 18 years. Before an afternoon filled with appearances on Radio Row, which is a mecca for sports radio stations during Super Bowl week, Mr. Thompson was reflecting on the game’s effect on Las Vegas.
“I think this is the biggest event we’ve ever had,” Mr. Thompson said.
How big? He was wearing a baseball cap with a handmade sticker that said “I need tickets” on the front. Yes, even Carrot Top has had trouble getting tickets to Sunday’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers.
“That’s what everyone says: ‘You’re Carrot Top! You own this city!’” Mr. Thompson said. “But I really can’t get one.”
It can be a challenge for even the most splashy events to make an impression in Las Vegas, a technicolor oasis in the Nevada desert embodied by the Strip: a vast collection of hotels, casinos and restaurants that sits just outside the city limits. and has the manic energy of a pinball machine.
But Las Vegas seems enchanted by the Super Bowl, which makes its first appearance in a place the NFL, not long ago, avoided to the point of parody. Now, before the big game, the league has effectively wallpapered its image in Las Vegas.
“We’ve done a lot of events outside of sports, but this is on another level,” said Vashti Cunningham, an Olympic high jumper and lifelong Las Vegas resident whose father, Randall, was an NFL quarterback. “It feels like there’s a lot of momentum.”
The city’s excitement is embodied, in distinctive Las Vegas fashion, in the Strip’s phosphorescent topography. The spherea 360-foot-tall amphitheater, has used its 1.2 million LED screens, transforming into a huge football helmet. Caesars Palace exhibits a Super Bowl-themed video screening on its facade every night.
The NFL’s relationship with Las Vegas has changed dramatically. Consider that in 2015, the NFL banned players from attending a fantasy football convention that Tony Romo was hosting in town because it was on casino property. The event was cancelled.
The Raiders, who moved to Las Vegas in 2020, now play their home games at Allegiant Stadium, which is within walking distance of approximately one million slot machines and craps tables. The NFL has forged lucrative partnerships with sports betting companies. And on Sunday, Romo will return to Las Vegas, this time to help broadcast the Super Bowl for CBS.
“We couldn’t afford to pay the value of the media exposure we would get,” said Mary Beth Sewald, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Chamber.
Terry Fator, a ventriloquist whose eponymous show is performed at the New York-New York Hotel and Casino, said he was always startled when passing the football stadium, which opened in 2020. (Taylor Swift, a high-profile NFL fanhad a couple of concerts there last March.)
“The city is a different place than it was a few years ago,” Fator said. “For many, many years, Las Vegas was, ‘I’m going to bet and that’s it.’ Well, now there is a lot more to do here.”
The Super Bowl, he said, is simply the most recent example, albeit an important one. Fator, 58, normally performs on Sundays, but takes the day off so he can watch the game on his 160-inch projection screen with his wife, Angie Fiore Fator.
“It’s really horrible when you have to do a show and you miss the last few minutes of the Super Bowl,” Fator said. “We will let the city celebrate, while we celebrate in our own home.”
When Formula 1 made its long-awaited return to Las Vegas for a race in November, it was more headache than spectacle. A month-long construction project to prepare for the course resulted in road closures, traffic jams and major losses for small businesses. Ticket prices for the race itself were exorbitant and many hotels were wrong to charge too much for rooms.
“The high-end properties did well, but the average Joe suffered,” said Jay Kornegay, executive vice president of racing and operations for Westgate Resorts. “Even though they are F1 fans, the price just priced them out. And when other properties tried to reduce their prices, it was too late.”
Aside from the ticket shortage, the NFL doesn’t seem to be causing the same kind of problems for residents. The roads are open so far (most of them, at least), and the league knows how to promote its flagship event.
“The Super Bowl is for everyone,” Kornegay said. “It’s for football fans. It’s for singles. It’s for married couples. It is for young and old. And the places we have around here can accommodate that generalized demographic.”
The Super Bowl has long been a big weekend for Las Vegas, with the city typically attracting 300,000 visitors regardless of where the game is played. And that number has been more than enough for the city’s 154,000 hotel rooms to “sell out every Super Bowl weekend,” according to Jeremy Agüero, executive of the Las Vegas Super Bowl host committee. This year’s event has more excitement, more events and more logistical hurdles, but it will most likely result in only about 10 percent more visitors, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
Still, more people and more enthusiasm mean more money. Jeff Benson, chief operating officer of Circa Sports, a sports betting operator, said he expected a “record” amount of money wagered over the weekend.
“The NFL is king,” he said. “And the Super Bowl is king.”
Vicki Barbolak, a comedian who appeared on “America’s Got Talent,” has felt the impact of the Super Bowl. She has a regular act at Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club at LINQ Promenade, but her shows were canceled this week due to “preparation for the Super Bowl,” she said. She later learned that Verizon had rented the space for a promotional event.
“The good news is we still get paid,” said Barbolak, 66, who divides his time between Las Vegas and San Diego. “I want to go in and pretend I left something in the store so I can get free shrimp and stuff. It should be elegant.”
Barbolak’s father, Pete, who died in 2006, spent one season in the NFL as an offensive tackle with the Pittsburgh Steelers. She said he would have loved Las Vegas to host the Super Bowl.
“He would have been there, no doubt,” he said. “He loved football and he loved gambling. Who does not?
Along the Strip, it’s the Super Bowl 24/7. Excessive? Of course. An annoyance? No more than usual.
“Formula 1 was hated by the locals because all it did was ruin our lives,” Barbolak said. “No one wanted to get close to that. The waiters and waiters lost enormous amounts of money for three weeks. I saw a couple of hot Italians walking around, but other than that there was nothing for any of us. But the Super Bowl? “Everyone is very proud and excited.”
Barbolak plans to watch the game at the Composers Room, a vintage bar east of the Strip that hosts its own special event: the “Super Nacho Bowl.”
Wayne Newton, the 81-year-old entertainer known as Mr. Las Vegas, recalled the good old days, when a fake businessman struggled to attract casino customers to a horse racing track. (It closed in 1954 shortly after opening.)
On Monday, a pair of backup singers escorted Newton to a stage for a news conference so he could christen a week full of Super Bowl festivities. Given the city’s history, he never imagined it would one day host the game, he said.
“Vegas was pretty set in its ways,” said Newton, who, unlike Carrot Top, knows exactly what his plans are for the weekend. “I think I have some pretty good innings.”