Visitors during the inaugural Formula One Grand Prix can expect plenty of fanfare in Las Vegas: Ferrari and F1 carts collections on display for photo-ops, pop-up retail shops, artist exhibits, celebrity chef sittings and more.
For some, they’re miles away from the track.
More than 100,000 visitors are projected to descend on the Strip during the third week of November, and hotel-casinos all across the valley are buying in at different levels for the motorsports event, held Nov. 16-18.
Casino operators have been deliberate in the level of investment the off-Strip spots are putting into marketing and activations. They’re hoping to bring guests to their property and help fuel what is expected to be a major lift to hotel room rates and gross gaming revenue for the region.
Activating for F1 fans
Close to the resort corridor, several operators are leveraging their proximity to the track without being on the Strip. Palms resort-casino General Manager Cynthia Kiser Murphey said her team was reopening the property under its new management – the San Manuel Gaming and Hospitality Authority – when county officials and F1 finalized the race plans. First up was determining how a property off the track could position itself.
“We concluded that people will want to be here for the excitement of being at F1,” Kiser Murphey said. “There’s a whole group of people that would like the convenience of being in a beautiful property that’s easy to get in and out of that is close to the track but not on the track.”
The Palms is targeting that group in three segments: loyalty club members at the sister property Yaamava’ Resort in Southern California, locals who want easy road access to the nearby action and tourists.
During race week, the Palms will try to keep visitors on site with Blackjack and slots tournaments, food and drink specials, pop-up F1-related retail and a display of four limited edition Ferraris worth nearly $21.8 million.
Others with quick access to Las Vegas Boulevard have similarly gone all-out. Ellis Island hotel-casino, a 289-room property one block east of the Strip on Koval Lane, partnered with F1 as an official venue of the circuit. Its location next to the race’s pit building and near turn 4 has elevated the value-driven property during the grand prix.
Christina Ellis, vice president of development, said a partnership between the property and race was a no-brainer. Ellis Island is selling grandstand tickets, hotel packages and special access to its indoor-outdoor beer garden, the Front Yard. Ticket holders for that venue can wander between the casino, bar area and an elevated observation deck that sits above the track – and across from F1’s more exclusive hospitality suites.
“You can enjoy the food, enjoy the beer, come race time if you want to be 10 feet above the track and watch the cars zoom by right in front of you, you’ll be able to move out there and hop between the two locations,” Ellis said.
An additional perk of the venue’s partnership is its live feed. TVs across the entire property will show a live version of the race – an advantage over a broadcast, where seconds delays can matter in a close race.
“It’s a huge draw for our locals, and non-locals, people who have never been to Ellis Island before and those who have never even known about us or seen us,” Anamarie Ellis, vice president of operations of the family-owned, 56-year-old property, said. “Being a part of that footprint was very exciting and something we wanted to make sure that we could be a part of and take advantage of with our location.”
Further from the Strip, fan activities are about catching those who don’t have race tickets. Circa owner Derek Stevens said his downtown casino bought grandstand tickets to entice some customers, but majority of the on-site activity will relate to watching the race.
Stadium Swim – a rooftop pool venue with 143-foot TV screen – will have free entry for the Red Bull Watch Party. Other viewing action is expected at its three-story sportsbook inside.
“We’re really zeroing in on a big component on this third weekend of November,” Stevens said. “We’ve got November very programmed: the first, second and fourth weeks are all football oriented, the third week is all F1-oriented.”
Still others have more muted plans for the race week. Red Rock hotel-casino General Manager Scott Nelson said the Station Casinos property will show the race at its sportsbook. Some social media marketing will point out Red Rock’s easy access via car — tapping into locals’ concerns about infrastructure around the Strip — but no splashy displays are planned.
Nelson said the property is expecting a strong weekend nonetheless, mostly driven by expected seasonal visitation. Other Station Casino properties have similarly muted plans. The company will be opening a new resort, Durango hotel-casino, the Monday after the race, Nov. 20.
“These are our typical gamers that come in and spend the weekend,” Nelson said of Red Rock. “The Formula One addition is just one more thing that’s driving the visitation to our property.”
Stevens said the event is expected to bring a different demographic than the typical Vegas visitor. The length of stay is projected to often be three to five days and the cost of travel, coupled with party and event tickets, suggest customer spending will be higher.
“It’s not that you’re sitting in a bar in Scottsdale and saying, ‘Hey, let’s get our buddies and jump in the car – we’re driving to Vegas,’” Stevens said. “That’s not really the demo. You’re thinking this through, you’ve got to coordinate flights from all over the world.”
Kiser Murphey said the Palms is also expected to monitor customer feedback in preparation for future races. They’ll keep an eye on when visitors eat dinner and if they want food and drink venues open in the early morning hours after the race; what kind of music they’d like to see live; and even if they’ll choose to walk the seven-tenths of a mile to the circuit.
“I think we’ll be smarter next year, but we’re trying to figure it out this year,” Kiser Murphey said.