LAS VEGAS • Viva here.
I’ve arrived somewhat prematurely for Super Bowl LIX (2025).
When Matt Wiley, sports editor of The Gazette, learned that I assigned myself to cover Super Bowl LIV and LIVE from Las Vegas, he suggested the site for next year’s game should have been the new home of the Las Vegas Raiders.
Super Bowl LV — Las Vegas.
But, initially, there were concerns the domed stadium wouldn’t be finished for the 2020 season. Yet, it is scheduled for a July 31 opening. Even so, owner Mark Davis didn’t desire hosting a Super Bowl in Vegas for several years. Instead, on April 23-25, the draft comes to town — next to the famed fountains and lake at the Bellagio Hotel. Players will be transported to the podium on boats.
What happens here for the NFL won’t stay here.
I just visited Allegiant Stadium, where the first six seats were installed early in the week for a local family who bought season tickets.
The edifice looks like the circular alien spaceship from “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.’’ The motif is black and gray, of course, and the curtains covering the glass windows on one side will be opened to offer a view of The Strip. The stadium is off Dean Martin Drive and at 3333 Al Davis Way in a suburb called Paradise.
The Broncos will make their first appearance in Las Vegas sometime in the coming season, and at least 25,000 Orange fanatics will make the trek to Sin City, Or Just Win, Baby, City.
Allegiant will have 65,000 seats, but can be expanded to 72,000 for the Super Bowl, a concert, a heavyweight championship fight or perhaps a Knights-Avalanche game (with the roof opened).
Las Vegas already throws the biggest party annually for the Biggest Game.
Approximately 150,000 showed up in south Florida for this Super Bowl’s festivities. Las Vegas has attracted more than 300,000 this weekend. More than $160 million will be wagered in 200 sports books operations.
After covering 40something Super Bowls in person, I decided a trip to the dark side would be appropriate this year. Who knows? I’m scouting for the Broncos, who perhaps will play in the first Super Bowl here.
This is the home of the beautiful and betting people this weekend. I counted 24 separate Super Bowl celebrations up the strip and downtown, including a pair at Westgate that will host 3,000.
Besides, I wanted to spend Super Bowl with one of the most powerful men in the sports gambling business and search for the ghost of Elvis down in the jungle room.
Jay Kornegay, vice president of the racing and SuperBook operations at the Westgate Hotel, grew up son of a U.S. Army officer in Colorado Springs. Kornegay graduated from Colorado State University in 1987 with a degree in restaurant management. After his buddies talked a reluctant Kornegay into a spring break trip to Vegas, he became intrigued.
Kornegay never rose to the top of the food chain, but, by 2004, he reached the pinnacle of the betting business. Under Kornegay, Westgate has become the world’s largest sports book emporium, which is 33,000 square feet (think Costco) and has TVs 20 feet high and 240 feet wide.
I was dazed Friday night sitting there and watching the Super Bowl gamblers gushing in by the thousands.
Westgate, formerly the Las Vegas Hilton, was the playroom for Elvis Presley, who I grew up with in Memphis, for 836 consecutive sold-out shows from 1969-76. He left the building in ’77, but the legend lives on. The Westgate maintains a prominent statue of The King in the lobby, and the street outside the entrance bears his name. I asked Jay for the Elvis Suite, but it was replaced years ago. I did order an Elvis cocktail and said: “Thank you. Thank you very much.’’
Jay — a devoted loyalist of the Broncos (he wears their jersey on Sundays), the Rockies and the CSU Rams — has the Chiefs favored — down a half point to 1 Saturday afternoon — and the over-under total at 54.5. More than 80 percent of the early wise-guy money was on K.C.
Kornegay anticipates a record amount of wagering on the Super Bowl in Vegas despite the competition now that 13 other states allow sports gambling — as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision to lift the federal ban in 2018. Colorado voters barely approved sports gambling in the November election, but the law doesn’t go into effect until May 1. More than 50 applications have been filed for the 33 potential licenses — in Colorado casinos, on phone apps and on the internet. A percentage of the profits will go to the state’s water planning.
So, Coloradans can bet legally on the Super Bowl in 2021.
I don’t gamble — except on Chinese food takeout. But I’ve been asked who will win by hundreds of people.
I’ll be amid the maddening crowd Sunday as the Chiefs beat the 49ers 28-23.
Viva Las Kansas City.