Mark Herbert

LAS VEGAS (CN) — Las Vegas, synonymous with dazzling lights and high-stakes gambling, recently added to its allure by hosting a series of major international events, including the Formula 1 Grand Prix and Super Bowl LVIII, a showdown between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers at Allegiant Stadium.

As a hub of tourism and entertainment, the city witnessed varied impacts on its local businesses and residents from these high-profile events.

Jason Arcara, a shop worker at Happy Daze Smoke & Vape-Kratom Shop and former part-time Uber driver, noted an uptick in tourist traffic.

"Yeah, I see tourists coming and going," he said, providing insight into the city's economic pulse. However, he underscored the challenges for Uber drivers during such times, such as intense competition and congestion, especially at the airport.

MGM Resorts International's latest financial reports reflect Las Vegas's event-driven growth. The company reported a revenue of $3.97 billion for the quarter ending Sept. 30, 2023, a significant 16.31% increase year-over-year. The growth led to a total revenue of $15.38 billion over twelve months, up 22.15% from $13.13 billion in 2022, highlighting the far-reaching economic impacts of major events, according to a press release.

BetMGM, a joint venture between MGM Resorts International, reported a net revenue of $1.96 billion last year, which the company says underscores in part the draw of events like F1 and the Super Bowl.

Beyond casinos and hotels, smaller businesses like 702 Cards and local shops experienced a ripple effect from the influx of tourists. Neil Rabinowitz, owner of the Las Vegas Boulevard card shop, shared his experience.

"It's about doing what I love," Rabinowitz said.

The nature of his niche business meant major events didn't drastically alter his business landscape — but they haven't hurt it, either. “We mostly deal in high-end cards and do a lot of business at card shows, but we get a lot of walk-in customers too because of the sporting events around town.”

Kathy and Jim Hunsinger, from Lansing, Michigan, expressed their excitement for the Super Bowl. They'll be rooting for the San Francisco 49ers due to Brock Purdy's inspiring story. Despite their hometown team, the Detroit Lions, being knocked out, they immersed themselves in the fanfare, collecting autographs and relishing the atmosphere.

“Well, I like Brock Purdy,” she said. “I like the story. I like it. It's Mr. Irrelevant. I thought it was cool. So, like, if you're a Lions fan, you're then kind of always have a backup team.”

Canadian friends Dan Howells and Kelly Dan demonstrated the global appeal of Las Vegas. Though the duo traveled together in support of their favorite hockey franchise, the Edmonton Oilers, Howells sported a red 49ers jersey on Wednesday whole Dan wore a red Chiefs jersey.

“The Oilers were going to set the record for the most wins, and they didn't do it and lost 3-1,” Howells said. “We aren’t staying for the Super Bowl though; we are headed home on Friday.”

The four out-of-towners spent their morning in front of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino on Wednesday, near the famous fountains where sports broadcasters have been set up all week. Inside the Bellagio, the conservatory has changed from its holiday theme to the Chinese Lunar New Year.

“It is so beautiful,” said Andrea Ceron. “They change the theme five times per year, and each time they do, I bring my mother down to see it and she always loves it.”

Raul Art, an Elvis impersonator, sat in his grey Volkswagen trying to stay out of the 14 mph winds whipping around the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign on Wednesday afternoon.

He offered a nuanced view of Las Vegas's evolving landscape, reflecting on the upcoming demolition of the Tropicana and the rise of new sports facilities. Bally's Corporation announced the closure of the Tropicana Las Vegas to make way for a new Major League Baseball stadium, with the resort set to close on April 2. The move is part of a plan involving the relocation of the Oakland Athletics and the construction of a $1.5 billion MLB stadium.

Art spoke about the city's constant evolution while expressing a sense of nostalgia for the old Vegas. "The Tropicana is a symbol of The Strip, and I am sad to see it go," he said.

While major events bring energy and economic benefits, they also invite reflection on the impacts on local businesses, traffic congestion and the city's evolving identity. As Las Vegas continues to attract high-profile events, it navigates a future that balances global tourism's demands with the aspirations of its local community.

“There sports will bring in millions of new guests to Las Vegas," Art said, "but it is sad to see some our history on the Strip disappear after standing on the spot since 1957.”