If New Year’s Eve is the Strip’s biggest annual event, Super Bowl weekend runs a close second.
But when the New York Giants and New England Patriots face off next weekend, don’t expect to find any Super Bowl parties on the Strip.
Nada. Not one.
You will, however, find plenty of "Big Game" celebrations.
In 2004, the National Football League, claiming copyright infringement, started clamping down on Las Vegas casinos that charged a cover for special Super Bowl parties outside of the sports book. For a while, it seemed as though the big-screen televisions would go dark, nacho sales on the Strip might suffer and porn stars wouldn’t have anything to do at the end of football season.
Then someone, possibly a genius, came up with the idea of scaling down such parties, charging only for food and drink packages and calling them "Big Game" parties.
"Our first year was in 2006 and the first ad we did, we put the word ‘super’ inside a cereal bowl," says Jonathan Fine, owner of PBR Rock Bar and Grill and the Rockhouse bar on the Strip. "I don’t think people got it. Since then, we’ve called it ‘the Big Game.’ "
In the beginning, businesses were running scared, says Anthony Curtis, publisher of lasvegasadvisor.com newsletter and website. But people have adapted to the Big Game nickname and things are pretty much back to normal.
"It has caught on and no one cares anymore," Curtis says.
The NFL’s championship weekend has become as important to Las Vegas as New Year’s Eve, especially because the game attracts gamblers who spend lots of money, says Jay Rood, vice president of race and sports book for MGM Resorts International.
It also attracts novice bettors who may feel more comfortable with the "fun" bets, or proposition bets, surrounding the Super Bowl. They’ve increased in popularity and help keep people engaged throughout the game, Rood says. For instance, if it’s apparent early in the game that you’ve lost your bet on the winner, you can place a proposition bet and still have a chance to win throughout the game. People can bet on who will commit the first turnover, who will score the first touchdown, which quarterback will complete more passes and other possibilities.
Super Bowl weekend "is a huge deal, especially for a company that operates predominantly on the Strip," Rood says. "It’s the engine that drives that weekend, hopefully all the properties will be near capacity."
If you’re looking for a spot to celebrate the game, plenty are out there, Curtis says. But you should develop a strategy before showing up anywhere in town.
You can’t go wrong getting a spot in or around the sports book, he says. Nearly every major casino has one.
"That’s where it’s happening. I really don’t think there’s a better place to watch the Super Bowl (other) than at the Super Bowl, especially at a book where everyone has an opinion and someone has action on just about every play," Curtis says.
That’s true, Rood says. Being in a sports book during the Big Game should be on everyone’s bucket list. He hopes to watch the game one year when he doesn’t have to work it.
You can’t reserve spots in a sports book, so if you want to watch the game in one, show up early. Take a buddy to help you save seats. That’s what most people seem to do, Rood says, and there’s nothing against saving seats.
Aria has state-of-the-art televisions and technology, which makes for an optimum viewing experience. But Mandalay Bay and The Mirage both have large sports books so you have a better chance of finding seats there, Rood says. Circus Circus, which upgraded its book about a year and a half ago, may get overlooked by some, so keep that casino in mind, he adds.
Other good spots Curtis recommends: Lagasse Stadium at Palazzo because of the unobstructed view of televisions and the Sporting House at New York-New York because it’s a sports-themed restaurant and bar.
For sheer size, the sports books at the LVH (formerly the Las Vegas Hilton), Caesars Palace and the M Resort are among the largest in the valley.
Here is a sampling of Big Game food and drink packages. Call ahead of time as regular business may be suspended during the game.
■ PBR Rock Bar and Grill at Miracle Mile Shops in Planet Hollywood Resort, 3667 Las Vegas Blvd. South, is offering 350 bar packages for game day, Fine says. For $100 per person, you get an open bar; for $200, you get premium liquors and access to the VIP area, which has more televisions. But they have 105 televisions, Fine says, so there isn’t a bad view in the house. A Big Game menu will be offered at an additional cost. Call 750-1685.
■ Cabo Wabo Cantina, also in Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort, is offering a Big Game package with an all-you-can-eat buffet, featuring wings, hot dogs, nacho and taco bars for $55. For $155, guests can upgrade and get unlimited well drinks and draft beers. Buckets of Coors will be available for $20. At halftime, a drawing will take place for previous Monday Night Football contest winners. For reservations, call 385-2226.
■ At the Rockhouse bar in front of Imperial Palace, 3535 Las Vegas Blvd. South, there’s a $25 food package that gets you sliders, chicken fingers, wings and other items. Or, for $100, get the food buffet with an open bar. Call 691-2909.
■ Lynyrd Skynyrd BBQ & Beer at Excalibur, 3850 Las Vegas Blvd. South, will have a Big Game barbecue package for $75. It includes all-you-can-eat barbecue and an all-inclusive drink package that includes beer, wine and well drinks. High-definition televisions are located throughout the venue.
■ The Playground, 3525 W. Russell Road, which includes Crazy Horse III and Posh Boutique nightclub, is hosting a Sexy Sunday party, with doors opening at 2 p.m. Adult film star Jenny Hendrix is scheduled to host. For $30, you get barbecue, sushi, bar food and a chance to win raffle prizes. The price is $50 on game day. During the first quarter, an open bar will be offered. Call 673-1700.
■ LBS Burger inside Red Rock Resort, 11011 W. Charleston Blvd., will celebrate the Big Game with unlimited draft beer and a T-shirt for $20. Must be present at 2:30 p.m. and available only to guests who order an entree.
■ Amigo’s Mexican Restaurant at Fiesta Henderson, 777 W. Lake Mead Parkway, Henderson, is hosting a Tacos and Tequila Tailgate. The all-you-can-eat and drink deal includes a nacho bar, beef and chicken tacos, fajitas, churros, Bud and Bud Light draft, and other items. The cost is $30 for guests with a Boarding Pass rewards card or $35 for those without. Doors open at 2 p.m. Reservations won’t be accepted.
Starting at 12:30 p.m., Fiesta Henderson sports book will offer a variety of food options throughout the game, including $1 hot dogs, buffalo wings for 50 cents each, $3 nachos with jalapenos and other items. Call 558-7000.
■ Railhead at Boulder Station, 4111 Boulder Highway, will host a viewing party with $6 wings, $5 sliders and nachos, $3 hot dogs, $20 for 100-ounce Bud Light beer towers and other items. Call 432-7777.
Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at spadgett@ reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564. Follow @StripSonya on Twitter.