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Loss of NFL draft means millions won’t be spent in Vegas in April

With hundreds of thousands of people no longer coming to Las Vegas at the end of April for the 2020 NFL draft, Southern Nevada businesses won’t see the millions of dollars they were expecting.

The NFL made it official Monday: The draft and all the public festivities surrounding it in Las Vegas have been canceled.

The 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville, Tennessee, resulted in a $224 million economic impact on that city with $130 million in direct spending calculated.

Economic experts believed Las Vegas was in line for an even greater return with the variety of entertainment and dining options available during what amounted to a four-day, full-capacity gathering.

Another lost benefit will be the elimination of a massive worldwide television audience. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority was expecting 47.5 million people in 115 countries to watch some portion of the draft.

With A-list entertainment personalities scheduled on stages each day and night of the draft and iconic views of Las Vegas attractions on display for the TV audience, the event that was to be televised by ABC, ESPN and the NFL Network would have become a giant commercial for Las Vegas.

But it’s all gone.

‘Material negative effect’

“There is no doubt that cancellation of the NFL draft will have a material negative effect on Southern Nevada’s economy,” said Jeremy Aguero of Las Vegas-based Applied Analysis in an email.

“The event, like so many others that have been forced to cancel or suspend, supports jobs, wages and business activity throughout our community,” he said. “The exact amount is difficult to determine at this time, as the compounding effects of the COVID-19 crisis strikes at the very foundation of our economy.”

Aguero said government agencies are doing their best to mitigate the damage, “but with a quarter of our workforce directly tied to the leisure and hospitality industry, the economic challenges will be formidable.”

Business professor Stephen Miller, director of UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research, said the small-business suppliers of Strip resorts that don’t have the capital base to sustain a prolonged closure would likely be the hardest hit by the draft’s cancellation and all the other closures occurring as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

“I would say it’s just another blow like a lot of the other events that have been going on,” Miller said. “A public health crisis is really not anything we can deal with in terms of our policy control levers.”

Among the agency leaders looking to pick up the pieces is Steve Hill, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which essentially served as the connection point between the NFL, the Las Vegas Raiders and the city’s resort community.

“Las Vegas appreciates the partnership we have developed with the NFL and agree that the health and safety of our citizens and guests must take priority,” Hill said in an email. “We look forward to the Raiders playing here this fall for what is going to be an ‘Only Vegas’ opening season, and also look forward to working with the NFL to bring their events, including the draft, to this great city.”

Most funding unspent

Hill said the LVCVA spent a minimal amount of the $2.4 million allocated by its board for draft expenses. Most of the expenses, he explained, were to come due closer to the dates of the event with public safety, volunteer-related costs, shuttle services, county permits and a marquee event needing to be paid for.

Hill had no comment on speculation that the NFL could look to Las Vegas to host the draft in another year.

Cleveland, home to the Browns and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is scheduled to host the draft in 2021, and Kansas City in 2023, but the calendar is open for 2022.

The two companies with properties closest to the planned draft venues had different reactions to the event’s cancellation.

Caesars’ brand-new Caesars Forum convention center and The Linq Promenade were to be the site of the draft’s main stage where NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was to announce the names of players drafted by the 32 NFL teams. Caesars Entertainment Corp. had no comment about the cancellation.

Bellagio’s 8-acre man-made lake and its fountain show and a floating platform was planned as the backdrop for a red-carpet introduction of players prior to their names being called.

“MGM Resorts understands and supports the NFL’s decision,” the company said in a statement. “We look forward to welcoming the NFL and all its fans to Las Vegas later this year when the Raiders’ season kicks off.”

The Nevada Resort Association, which represents 71 resort properties statewide, also issued a statement about the cancellation.

“We appreciate and understand the careful and thorough consideration that went into the NFL’s decision to modify their plans for the health and safety of fans and the public,” the NRA statement said. “We look forward to continuing our relationship with the NFL and working with them on major events in Las Vegas in the future.”

Spokesmen for Boyd Gaming Corp., Las Vegas Sands Corp., Wynn Resorts Ltd., and Station Casinos Inc. did not respond to requests for comment.

Wynn Las Vegas and Encore will close for at least two weeks beginning Tuesday. MGM will close its nine Las Vegas properties “until further notice” effective Tuesday, taking tens of thousands of hotel rooms offline amid a collapse in visitation and mass cancellations of conventions.

Representatives for Red Rock Resorts, Caesars, Sands and Boyd Gaming Corp. told the Review-Journal they have no plans to close their Nevada casinos at this time.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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