Without the NFL Draft, the shuttered Las Vegas Strip seems even emptier By Howard Stutz, Executive Editor, CDC Gaming Reports April 18, 2020 at 1:00 am This week was the week that Las Vegas was going to be the center of the football universe. But now, the legions of boisterous NFL fans that would have otherwise wandered the Strip wearing the caps and jerseys of their favorite teams have been replaced by silence. The three-day 2020 NFL Draft was expected to bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to Las Vegas starting this Thursday. But when the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic closed casinos on the Strip, the NFL pulled the plug on the annual event, which traditionally attracts tens of thousands of football diehards. The draft will still take place, of course, but given the requirements of social distancing, players will now hear their names announced in the quiet of their homes via streaming video, absent even the traditional bro-hug from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Las Vegas is taking a huge financial hit from the loss of the draft. Hotel rooms were selling for triple or even quadruple their normal late April value. Caesars Entertainment was to unveil the $375 million Caesars Forum conference center behind the Linq, which was to house the main stage, where the team’s selections were to be unveiled. The site was also to include the NFL Draft Experience, a free, three-day festival of all things football and all things NFL. Bellagio Fountains were to have served as the backdrop for NFL Draft’s red carpet entrance. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority was ready to spend $2.4 million to produce and promote the NFL Draft, which was to include a red-carpet ceremony saluting the expected first-round selections on a stage set up in the middle of the Bellagio fountains. Following the ceremony, the players were to be paraded down the Strip to the Caesars Forum. The event was also expected to celebrate the Las Vegas Raiders, as the team’s inaugural season in the $2 billion Allegiant Stadium is, at least for now, just four months away. NFL-licensed Las Vegas Raiders merchandise was to hit the market to coincide with the draft. “Health and safety has always been our top priority, so despite it being a major disappointment, this was the right decision,” Raiders owner Mark Davis said in a statement. What a stark difference we’ve incurred over the past 30 days. The resort industry shutdown, which passed the one-month mark today, is costing the LVCVA up to $200 million in lost room tax revenue for the fiscal year 2021. The agency has sliced $79 million from its 2020 operating budget. Even the LVCVA’s “mascot,” former Las Vegas mayor and one-time mob lawyer Oscar Goodman, saw his $72,000-a-year contract to promote the destination become a casualty of the budget crunch. With nearly 150,000 hotel rooms empty, and closed Strip casinos relegated to lighting up windows with messages of hope, there was nothing for Goodman to promote. In a city known for its splashy events, the NFL Draft was an event that would have served not only to officially mark the marriage between the once-taboo city of Las Vegas and the NFL, but would also have been a source of significant community pride for Las Vegas and its residents. There are hints Las Vegas may land a Super Bowl at Allegiant Stadium – Goodell said in February that Las Vegas could be announced as a future Super Bowl city, with the assumption being either 2025 or 2026. It’s also thought that a future NFL Draft could land in Las Vegas. This week, though, an already quiet and empty Strip can’t help but seem a little quieter and emptier. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.