LAS VEGAS AND FORMULA 1

Formula 1 has had a long relationship with Vegas dating back to races which were held in the car park of the Caesar’s Palace casino in 1981 and 1982. It was a big flop. The track was dull and few people attended.

Bernie Ecclestone did not want to give up and continued to try to get another race in Vegas, which he believed would fit with F1’s image. He used a friend of his called Tommy Baker to try to put together a deal. In 1996five representatives of Las Vegas casinos visited the Monaco GP, including Steve Wynn and Bobby Baldwin. The casinos wanted to use the race to promote the idea that the city was “the Entertainment Capital of the World” although they baulked at paying Bernie Ecclestone’s asking price. There was opposition at the time from other casino owners who did not want access to their facilities being reduced by a race. After these efforts failed there was an attempt to build a semi-permanent facility on a golf course at the south end of The Strip. In the end however the golf course was built but without a race track included.  Wynn was back at an F1 race in 2005 in Montreal at the same time as he was planning to open his own Wynn Las Vegas resort and later a second called Encore.

The biggest was always to convince the casino owners that a race was a good idea and to find someone to pay to be the promoter.

This year Bernie let slip that there was someone in Montreal from Las Vegas, keen to promote a race in the Nevada city. Las Vegas continues to boom and the casinos there continue to try to find new events to bring in more people to play at the casinos and use the hotel rooms. The emphasis in recent years has been very much on promoting family-friendly events and Formula 1 fits the bill perfectly as it has an image that Las Vegas would like to have and would bring in more than hardline gamblers. The big problem is finding someone who is willing to invest in such a project.

In recent years, however, things have changed. Liberty Media took over F1 from Ecclestone and CVC Capital Partners and there was a flurry of new activity around Las Vegas although his led to a tiresome situation when a wannabe F1 promoter who did not have a mandate managed to get a marketing agency representing the city to sign a non-disclosure agreement forbidding the LVCVA to talk with anybody else about organising a race. This all ended up in court with the promoter being sent packing.

At the same time Vegas began looking at a different kind of future because growth had stalled. In 2000 the city attracted 36 million visitors but it took 14 years before that number reached 40 million.  Vegas suffered from the boom in online gambling and the liberalisation of laws relating to casinos in other states. The city began to realise that it needed to look beyond casinos and to expand into other businesses, notably the convention trade, family holidays and big international sports events.  The number of visit numbers peaked in 2016 at 42.9 million but then began to fall back, mainly as a result of a mass shooting that took place in 2017 which resulted in the deaths of 60 people.

And then came the pandemic when the visitor number plummeted to 19 million. Things have been improving since then and the opening of new casinos and the expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center have added to the numbers. At the same time, F1 has enjoyed a boom in US interest, thanks to the Netflix series Drive to Survive, so the two forces were aligned.

The question of finding a promoter was never going to be easy and in the end F1 and its parent Liberty Media concluded that the best thing would be to promote the race itself. This makes a lot of sense because having a race without a promoter takes out the middle man and that means that all revenues go to F1. However there is also an element of risk as F1 has to deal with potential losses. Liberty Media controls Live Nation Entertainment Inc, which promotes, operates, and manages ticket sales for live entertainment internationally.

The deal is for three years, which gives Liberty and F1 the opportunity to bale out if the project does not work, but the chances are that it will be a big success and that the deal will be extended in the future, as F1 rides a wave of popularity in the US.

(By the way, if you want to keep up to date with Joe’s blog posts and tweets, you can follow him on Twitter @joesaward and you can find out more about what he does at www.flatoutpublishing.com.

27 thoughts on “LAS VEGAS AND FORMULA 1

  1. I really really hope there is a casino representative called Booby Baldwin, but I guess it is just a typo!

  2. Not impressed. Will this be a three day race weekend or two?

    Casual gamblers on a family vacation will be highly inconvenienced, hard core gamblers will shun the race for the gaming tables, and I’m not sure if race fans will flock to Vegas the way they do to COTA.

    How this develops will be interesting to follow.

    1. You sound like the nimbys on the Isle of Man who object to the TT mountain circuit being closed for evenings in practise week, and a few days in race week. Life goes on, people manage, and the local economy booms.

      1. It’s easy for you to say because YOU’RE not the one inconvenienced. I look forward to see how Liberty manage the potential conflicts and access required by casinos and hotels. As the promoters I’m sure the spend will be unlimited to ensure it’s done right.

        1. I live 200m from the TT mountain circuit (and have done for over 15 years). I know better than most the inconvenience of living close to public roads that get closed for qualifying and racing.

  3. I know the point of Vegas is to showcase the destination not the racetrack, but goodness me, the track plan for Vegas looks tedious. A succession of 90-degree corners. Phoenix MkII. I give it about the same chances of success as Phoenix…

  4. Fascinating detail on the stuttering attempts to get back to Vegas.

    I went to Vegas for Rugby 7’s a few years back and it was amazing how many events were happening at the same time Looking at the proposed circuit, it’s going to be interesting to see how the traffic diverts from the strip.

    It should be an interesting race, but Vegas is not the kind of place I would go back to. I ticked it off once

  5. Another parking lot only at night so no will notice? LV has grown but now face a water problem like us in Calif.

      1. Your right I didn’t look at the map because I couldn’t find here. I did find one and was surprised that it’s another flat street race. The night is good I guess it can get very warm there.

  6. Hello Joe

    My (and probably only my) opinion:
    Las Vegas should be avoided.
    We do not need a third race in the USA.
    There are too many races anyway. 16 would be enough.
    We do need a race in Africa (preferably Kyalami).
    DRS needs to be scrapped now that the new ground-effect has been shown to work.
    The sprint “races” are a joke, except for those with a short span of attention.
    [rant over]

    On a previously covered subject: The media (NOT you but particularly Benson at the BBC) keeps stating that the FIA report of 19th March blames “human error” for “the incorrect application of rules”. Having read this report a few times now, I have been unable to find the words “human” or “error” in it. Have I missed something?

    Alan

  7. So a proposed start time of 10pm in Vegas? 1am in New York and 7am in Europe? Doesn’t sound right to me.

    1. Yes, I wondered about the start time too. It seems to mitigate against the target family audience in so many time zones, including at the venue.

  8. I believe Vegas will be very successful. Being in Canada and having many good friends in the US, we are all already making plans.
    Off subject: Joe it would be great to get your opinion on DRS now the cars can follow so close. The last two races have been really exciting. Seeing the cars slowing or even slamming on the brakes during a race to have their opponent reach the DRS line first doesn’t seem like racing. Instead of having a gimmick that makes the cars go faster with no real skill involved to pass, wouldn’t it be better having nose to tail racing letting the best drivers in the world show their skills.

  9. so the start time is roughly equivalent to Suzuka or Melbourne in real terms – what’s the fuss?? Though I take the point about it not being very family friendly for those actually onsite, but since when did the fans in the stands matter to F1?

  10. Would love to hear/read your views on CVC and what they did or didn’t do for F1 when they owned it.

  11. The thing that worries me about Las Vegas is the proposed dates. A night race in November has every potential to be COLD. The average low is 46°F (8°C). That seems to be a recipe for disaster with regard to the tires. Hopefully someone is thinking about this. It also sounds like they may hold the Grand Prix the weekend of Thanksgiving which is a big mistake. This is a big family holiday and that’s not a good recipe for getting people to the track.

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