Las Vegas the real winner of mega fight


Pac-May weekend will be bigger than New Year’s Eve when more than 300,000 visitors pack the city

LAS VEGAS: As the showdown between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao draws near, there is one unavoidable question: Who’s going to win the fight?

Before the boxers even step into the ring Saturday (Sunday in the Philippines) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, there is already one clear winner.

It’s Vegas, baby.

The mega fight—the Fight of the Decade, Fight of the Century, or Fight of the Millennium, depending on who’s holding the bullhorn—is attracting tens of thousands of visitors who want a taste of one of the most highly anticipated matchups in more than a decade.

The city’s 150,000 rooms are expected to be near capacity, said hotel executives such as Phillip Auerbach, a senior vice president of Caesars Entertainment. Up to $100 million will be wagered on the fight at Nevada sports books, said Jay Kornegay, vice president of the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook. And tickets to simply watch the fight on TV in town are on sale at StubHub for up to $1,000.

So forget about Mayweather and Pacquiao for a moment, because Auerbach has another prediction: This weekend will be bigger than New Year’s Eve, when more than 300,000 visitors pack the city.

“Looking back over the last several fights, the Super Bowl, the last couple of New Year’s Eves, this is going to eclipse all that,” Auerbach told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s going to eclipse everything.”

The fight has arguably eclipsed everything when it comes to hype. It is likely to set the record for pay-per-view sales, surpassing the 2.4 million purchases made in 2007 for Mayweather’s victory over Oscar De La Hoya.

Mayweather and Pacquiao are the top boxers of their era and have been teasing boxing fans for years with a possible matchup. Mayweather, 38, who has a 47-0 record, and Pacquiao, 36, at 57-5-2, are entering the twilight of their careers, but anticipation for the bout is at a fever pitch.

The outcome will be measured by punches landed and pain inflicted by the two men, as well as in dollars made, and no accountants figure to be busier than those working for MGM International Resorts.

The company’s signature property—the MGM Grand—is leveraging the demand from boxing fans and others drawn to the event. This week, the hotel charged $1,550 for a standard room—the same room available for less than $250 last Saturday.

Other hotels charged inflated room rates while the fight promoters and Showtime and HBO—the cable companies offering the fight on pay-per-view—positioned themselves to generate more than $300 million.

“It’s just becoming one giant moneymaking machine,” said Dave Pemberton, director of specialty games for Caesars Entertainment, “and everybody’s getting in where they can.”

Las Vegas figured to be flush with cash after this weekend even without a boxing match. Already on tap: the running of the Kentucky Derby, which attracts scores of horse players and gamblers, and a pre-Cinco de Mayo celebration that lures throngs of revelers. Then came Feb. 21, when Mayweather ended five years of frustration for boxing fans by announcing he and Pacquiao had agreed to a fight.

The hotels felt an instant impact, Auerbach said. “Within the next three days, the city was almost sold out,” he said. “It was unlike anything I’ve seen before.”

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority offers no projections on hotel occupancy and economic impact, and caution might be wise.

Last week, Auerbach said a standard room at Caesars Palace was available for $1,000 for a two-night minimum stay. But Wednesday, a standard room was available for $500 with no minimum night stay, and the MGM rooms had dropped below $500 Thursday.

“We hear there are a lot of people coming to town who just want to be in Las Vegas, who just want to be part of the buzz this grand event is creating,” Cara Clarke of Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce said.

“So I think there’s going to be a lot of people coming in just to watch the fight.”

Watching the fight here could prove to be more challenging than finding an affordable hotel room. On the Strip, only the MGM Grand and its nine sister properties will show the fight during viewing parties. The hotel said it took hours to sell out of tickets, which were priced at $150 per person.

Only four restaurants within 25 miles of Las Vegas were listed online as offering the fight on closed-circuit.

Kornegay, the sports book director at Westgate, reported a steady flow of bets and expected the arrival of high-rollers today. Though the fight will be available on closed-circuit only at MGM properties on the Strip, all sports books will show the Kentucky Derby, NBA playoffs and NHL playoffs among a full menu of sports events. “It’s like the perfect storm for sports betting,” said Jason Simbal of CG Techology, which operates sports books for eight properties in Las Vegas.

There is money that will be spent in so many other places —restaurants, bars, casinos, nightclubs, limos, cabs. Jason McCormick, Red Rock Resort’s sports book director, had a thought when talking about the imminent arrival of tens of thousands of visitors.

“Hopefully,” he said, “everybody’s getting their tax refund check.”     TNS


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