Forget bone-shaking temperatures. Forget dodgy manhole covers. Forget casino bosses tossing out idle threats: the Las Vegas Grand Prix is going to be big time.
Formula One has headed to Sin City and caused a big splash: in more ways than one. Returning for the first time in 40 times – when the Caesars Palace Grand Prix was held, bizarrely, in the casino’s car park, the Las Vegas GP has captured the imagination of those who might not ordinarily engage with F1; which is presumably the point of having the race there in the first place.
Caesars bosses complained that the 1982 race actually saw them lose money, but there should be no such repeat in 2023 – unless, that is, bookies’ favourite Max Verstappen obliges on the Las Vegas Strip.
Early indications suggest that the race will smash F1 betting records – in fact, the Las Vegas GP already had a higher wagering handle in the United States by Friday lunchtime than any other Formula One outing in history….with more than 24 hours (at the time of writing) of hype and interest to come.
So can the Las Vegas Grand Prix make F1 great again….even if only for one evening?
Viva Las Vegas
According to those in the know, the betting take has already blown all other motor racing events out of the window – including NASCAR, which remains incredibly popular across the Atlantic.
BetMGM chief Matt Prevost confirmed as much in a press statement: “Race weekend in Las Vegas has the potential to shatter every company record for the sport,” he said. “Popularity for automotive sports in the U.S. continues to grow and the activity we´re already seeing around this event is remarkable.”
F1 itself is betting big on the Sin City race to bring back some razzmatazz to a sport that has become increasingly stale and predictable in recent years. The street circuit will wind around Las Vegas Boulevard – the Strip, to you and I – taking in all of the famous sights, from Caesars to the dancing fountains of the Bellagio.
It’s these street tracks which, like Singapore and Saudi Arabia, tend to spring the surprise results – particularly in their first year of running and in the particularly unique conditions of Las Vegas; temperatures are expected to reach single digits, while the Saturday evening atmosphere will be rather more raucous than the usually staid Sunday spectacle.
Punters are getting stuck in too – in their droves, by all accounts, which will be good news for the sportsbooks if much of the money comes in for the odds-on favourite Verstappen and the Dutchman fails to oblige.
Formula One is a popular sport with punters in the UK, although – counter to the Vegas action – they aren’t particularly partisan to the British Grand Prix: yes, it was the most wagered-upon race in 2022, but a total handle of 7.3% of all bets does not scream supremacy.
That would suggest that F1 betting in the UK is spread evenly across multiple races; suggesting that its fans of the sport that are powering the market, rather than casuals pouring in for Silverstone only.
The global reach of Formula One has increased with the popularity of its ‘Drive to Survive’ documentary series, which was streamed by more than one million UK households in the first month of its inaugural run back in 2020.
Disney Makes Surprise Move Into….Sports Betting?
Like one of their classic films of yesteryear, the script could not be better written for Disney.
The family-friendly firm has made the somewhat rather surprising decision to move into sports betting – timing their entry into the American market to coincide with the Las Vegas GP, while the Super Bowl (typically the biggest betting event in the United States) is looming in February.
Disney is the parent company of ESPN, the sports broadcaster, who have teamed up with the wagering firm Penn Entertainment to broker the launch of their website and app.
A deal has been negotiated that will see Penn pay a cool $1.5 billion (£1.2 billion) to use the ESPN name and branding, with a further $500 million (approximately £400 million) paid by Penn to ESPN in share issues. But they face a tough road ahead: Flutter Entertainment’s FanDuel and independent firm DraftKings have dominated the market with 1.6 million downloads of their respective apps since the start of the NFL season in September.
The new platform has already launched in 17 states, although there’s no word on when or if it will head to the UK.