Over the past decade, a two-word phrase has been scrubbed from the Vegas vocabulary—and no, it’s not “tax increase.” Cruise the Strip this time of year and you’ll see nary a mention of the Super Bowl, only winking references to “the Big Game.” That’s because the NFL wants nothing to do with Vegas or gambling, and its legal team protects the league’s trademarks as furiously as the Steelers’ offensive line guards Ben Roethlisberger. In 2003, the NFL famously rejected the Visitors Authority’s first “What happens here, stays here” ad and threatened to sue Vegas casinos if they used any NFL trademarks to promote events. In the intervening years, casinos have been careful not to irritate the league. That often means opening Super Bowl parties only to VIPs and “invited guests”—Station Casinos and MGM Resorts, for example, have no public parties planned outside their sports books on February 6. Even so, the league’s moves have done little to slow Vegas’ popularity as a “Big Game” destination. Last year, 278,000 visitors were in town for that weekend. And that “What happens here” ad? The NFL-vs.-Vegas flap only helped cement its legendary status. So even if we can’t say the S-word, Vegas’ irrepressible spirit has prevailed—for now. Still, you have to wonder: If the NFL called off its blitz and let casinos run wild, how super could the weekend be?
Wed, Jan 26, 2011 (1:56 p.m.)