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The Nevada Independent

Indy Gaming: F1 will share Grand Prix race weekend with the Raiders

Tourism leader says Las Vegas can accommodate both events. Also, in Northern Nevada changes are taking place at two Sparks casinos.
Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz
EconomyFormula 1GamingLas Vegas RaidersSports

The inaugural Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix had the city to itself last year. But Las Vegas tourism officials believe there is enough capacity in the market for two events. We’ll find out on Nov. 23 and Nov. 24 when the race is followed by a Raiders game.

Programming note: Due to the Memorial Day holiday, next week’s Indy Gaming will run on May 30.

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Las Vegas had an open sports calendar for the inaugural Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix last November, giving the race exclusive access to the tourism corridor from Thursday through Sunday as the Las Vegas Raiders, Vegas Golden Knights and UNLV Rebels all played away games that weekend.

This year’s Grand Prix will have some company. 

When the Raiders’ schedule was released last week, a home game at Allegiant Stadium against the Denver Broncos was scheduled for 1 p.m. on Nov. 24 — roughly 12 hours after this year’s grand prix is scheduled to conclude. Grand Prix Plaza is approximately 3 miles north of Allegiant, and should be cleared by kickoff.

In the months following the Formula One race, downtown casino operators complained about being cut off from the customer traffic associated with the event. Strip resorts south of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, where the straightaway turned toward the start-finish line, were left out of the race activity.

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority CEO Steve Hill said having a Raiders home game on the Sunday after the race will benefit resorts that ran into issues with Formula One last year.

“The properties outside of the Formula One circuit didn't do well during the last race,” Hill said during an interview after last week’s Las Vegas Stadium Authority meeting. “Having an NFL game that weekend will serve those outlying properties well.”

Hill noted that there was little traffic congestion away from the 3.9-mile race course, including much of Allegiant’s parking centers around multiple nearby MGM-operated resort garages and private lots west of Interstate 15.

“Having that football game at Allegiant Stadium is going to help round out that weekend,” Hill said “We've got plenty of room in the city to do other things. That’s what Las Vegas can do.”

The Bellagio Fountain Club, which overlooked a straight-away along the Strip for the Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix, is seen on Nov. 16, 2023. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Executives from MGM Resorts, which has 10 Strip properties, said the race translated into a record revenue weekend. The Bellagio hosted the three-level Fountain Club trackside for MGM’s invited big-spending customers. Other visitors paid a reported $11,000 for a three-day ticket to watch the races and dine on meals prepared by MGM’s star chefs. 

With the Fountain Club returning, MGM may convince some of its invited racing guests to stay over for the Raiders game. Also, Broncos fans are known to travel, which could fill up rooms south of Flamingo Road.

Sharing race weekend with the Raiders shouldn’t cause capacity problems. Las Vegas will have almost 152,000 hotel rooms by November, even after April’s closing of Tropicana and the July shutdown of The Mirage.

“Operators remain committed to bettering what was a largely mixed inaugural F1 race from a financial standpoint,” Truist Securities gaming analyst Barry Jonas wrote in a research note Monday after visiting gaming company leaders in Las Vegas last week.

With ticket sales for this year’s race already underway, Jonas wrote that casino operators are considering several improvements for 2025, including making the event more accessible to mid-tier customers through reduced hotel room rates and breaking up ticket packages for individual events.

Jonas said “optimizing” placements of the race grandstands would reduce road work disruption in the months leading up to the race.

Meanwhile, Formula One is dealing with other matters.

Last week, the Grand Prix parted ways with Betsy Fretwell, who served just five months as the race’s chief operating officer. Fretwell was the event’s top local executive and was helping navigate the fallout from disruptions to local businesses from last year’s race preparations.

Operators of the Ellis Island Casino, for example, filed a lawsuit April 30 in Clark County District Court seeking millions of dollars in damages from the Las Vegas Grand Prix and Clark County for impeding business access to the off-Strip hotel-casino for several months. Ellis Island did create a viewing area with grandstands during the race, and it’s unclear if the resort will construct the area this year.

The Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks on March 10, 2023. (Tim Lenard/The Nevada Independent)

Baldini’s sold to Gaming and Leisure; Nugget’s integration into Century slowed 

Baldini’s Casino in Sparks was part of a $110 million acquisition of three casinos last week by  Gaming and Leisure Properties, a real estate investment trust. Strategic Gaming Management will continue operating the casino through a management agreement.

The other two casinos that were part of the sale are in Deadwood, South Dakota. 

Baldini’s does not have a hotel but has a 43,000-square-foot casino with 492 slot machines, a race and sportsbook, several restaurants and bars and 600 parking spaces.

When the deal closes following regulatory approval, Gaming and Leisure will own six gaming properties in Nevada — Bally’s Lake Tahoe and the shuttered Tropicana Las Vegas (operated by Bally’s Corp.), Tropicana Laughlin (operated by Caesars Entertainment), M Resort in Henderson and the Horseshu and Cactus Pete’s in Jackpot (operated by Penn Entertainment).

“[Gaming and Leisure] is slowly but strategically building its pipeline of high-quality tenants to participate in the next wave of casino consolidation,” CBRE Equity Research gaming analyst John DeCree wrote in a research note last week.

The transaction expands Gaming and Leisure’s casino portfolio to 65 properties across 20 states with nine tenants. Strategic Gaming Management will pay $9.2 million in annual rent to operate the three casinos.

Gaming and Leisure is paying $105 million for the properties and is providing the operator with $5 million for capital improvement projects. 

Also in Northern Nevada, the integration of Sparks Nugget operations into Century Casinos' various systems has taken longer than anticipated, leading the Colorado-based company to report lower-than-expected first-quarter results.

Century acquired the Nugget, one of Northern Nevada’s largest resorts, 13 months ago for $195 million. 

“Century continues to struggle to integrate recent acquisitions,” Stifel Financial gaming analyst Jeffrey Stantial wrote in a research note, adding that “more time is needed to stabilize the Nugget.”

A customer plays a slot machine at The Strat Hotel & Casino & Tower on May 18, 2023. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

AGA: Casinos nationally collected $17.6 billion in Q1 gaming revenue

Gaming revenue nationwide topped $17.6 billion in the first three months of 2024, an increase of 5.6 percent from a year ago, according to a report from the American Gaming Association.

The two largest increases came from sports betting and online gaming, which combined for more than $5.3 billion of the overall total. Sports betting revenue, now legal in 38 states and Washington, D.C., saw a 22 percent increase to $3.3 billion. Online gaming in six states was $2 billion, an increase of 26.1 percent.

Meanwhile, at casinos in 37 states, table game revenue increased 3 percent to almost $2.6 billion while slot machine revenue was flat at more than $8.9 billion. 

Revenue from Michigan and Louisiana was factored into the overall gaming figure but was not included in the slots and table game totals.

What I'm reading

A lonely desert fire station, the only lifeline for millions of Vegas travelers — Rachel Uranga, Los Angeles Times

You can expect to wait for help if you crash in a 93-mile stretch on Interstate 15 from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. 

New Jersey overall gambling revenue up 10.4 percent in April, but in-person casino winnings were down — Wayne Parry, The Associated Press

It was the state’s second-best month ever for legal online wagering.

Former Shohei Ohtani teammate made bets with same bookmaker as Mizuhara — Mark Puelo, The Athletic

Major League Baseball players are forbidden from wagering with an illegal bookie.

Attendees gather at the AGS booth during G2E at the Venetian Expo on Oct. 12, 2022. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

News, notes and quotes

Hedge fund opposes AGS buyout

Emmett Investment Management, a New York City hedge fund that controls 1.5 percent of the stock in gaming equipment provider AGS, said it opposes the $1.1 billion buyout of the Las Vegas-based company. In an open letter to shareholders, Emmett said the $12.50 price per share offered by Brightstar Capital Partners was “inadequate.”


Rio names new CEO

Longtime gaming executive Patrick Miller was appointed CEO of the Rio Hotel & Casino. Miller previously held key positions with MGM Resorts International, including several years as the president of Park MGM, where he oversaw the property’s transformation from the Monte Carlo. Rio owner Dreamscape Cos. is in the process of a $340 million renovation of the off-Strip resort. 


Marnell resigns from Golden Entertainment board

Anthony Marnell III, a director at Golden Entertainment since 2019, resigned last week. According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, no reason was given for the departure. Marnell became a director after Golden acquired two Laughlin casinos from Marnell for $190 million the year he joined the board.


Spirit begins service between Reno and Los Angeles

Spirit Airlines announced a new daily nonstop round-trip flight between Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) starting Aug. 14. The flights will arrive and depart in the afternoon.


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