The N.F.L. will play Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas, cementing the league’s entry into a city that for decades it kept at arm’s length because of its association with sports gambling.
The announcement, which the league made at its quarterly owners meeting Wednesday, would have produced scrutiny and surprise just a few years ago because of the N.F.L.’s long-held opposition to betting on games, and the many rules which prohibited players and league personnel from being associated with casinos.
But in the last four years, the N.F.L.’s icy approach to the city has quickly melted.
In 2017, the league’s owners voted 31-1 to allow the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas from Oakland. Though some owners were reluctant to remove a team from the highly lucrative California market, they were persuaded by officials in Clark County, Nev., who paid $750 million in construction costs for a new stadium right off the Strip.
They also rightly anticipated that the following year, 2018, the Supreme Court would strike down a nearly three-decade old law that prohibited the rest of the United States from having sports gambling operations. The decision opened the floodgates, with the league and teams signing deals with sports gambling-related businesses including casinos and betting apps.
The league had planned to host the draft in Las Vegas in 2020, but the event was pushed back two years to April 2022 because of the coronavirus pandemic. (The league hosted an entirely virtual event in 2020 and the draft moved to Cleveland this year.)
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In February, the N.F.L. will play the Pro Bowl in Las Vegas, as well.
Awarding the Super Bowl to Las Vegas, though, is the biggest signal yet that the league embraced not only the so-called Sin City but has lost most of its inhibitions about sports gambling.
“It’s a big day for the Raiders. It’s a big day for Las Vegas,” said Mark Davis, the owner of the Raiders. “I’d say it’s a marriage made in heaven.”
The N.F.L. often awards Super Bowls to teams and cities that build new stadiums. In recent years, the Super Bowl has been held in Atlanta and Minneapolis in stadiums that the Falcons and Vikings had newly built.
The Raiders, too, play in a new home, Allegiant Stadium, which opened last year. But given that the league once handled the city with proverbial kid gloves, awarding it with a Super Bowl amounts to a full-throated embrace.
Beyond the gambling stigma, the city is one of the most appealing to the N.F.L. for hosting the Super Bowl. The weather in Las Vegas is likely to be sunny and warm in February, there are more than enough hotel rooms and restaurants to meet the league’s needs, and the city’s airport can handle the surge in traffic from visitors.
Many of the 150,000 hotel rooms in Las Vegas are typically booked on Super Bowl weekend. But with the game being played in town, room rates will rise. There is also an entire week of events leading up to the game. Steve Hill, the chief executive of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said the higher room rates and additional bookings should generate an additional $70 million in state and local taxes.
Allegiant Stadium, which seats about 65,000 fans, might need to be expanded a bit to meet league requirements. But that is a minor detail considering that four years ago, team owners would have scoffed at the thought of the N.F.L. playing its most watched game in the city.