Paul Szydelko
Paul Szydelko

Football season is just around the corner, with college and NFL teams sweating on fields across the country preparing for the games that bring so much joy and heartache to fans and profit and loss to bettors.

Legal sports wagering is spreading; online and mobile betting is increasing; and the NFL's RedZone channel is almost addictive. But there's nothing quite like wagering and watching games in Las Vegas. Its sports books lead the way in technology, comfort and camaraderie. With multiple games broadcast on multiple screens, with bets riding on nearly every play, there can be anticipatory hushes, lusty cheers and despairing boos simultaneously.

Among the Strip's most prominent race and sports books is the one in Mandalay Bay, closest to Allegiant Stadium, under construction to be the home of the NFL's Raiders and University of Nevada, Las Vegas football beginning in 2020. The sports book recently received an upgrade, and more is promised when the Raiders come to town. As reported by the Las Vegas Sun, one screen reaches 31 feet diagonally, flanked by two 28-foot screens that can be split four ways to enable multiple games to be displayed. VIP seating is available for individuals and small groups.

Caesars Palace, steeped in history, has a Race & Sports Book that features a 143-foot, high-definition LED screen with what it calls 4-Zone Directional Sound to project every grunt, cheer and piece of analysis from the game. There are 140 seats and 13 betting windows. VIP seats can be reserved for exclusive upper-level seating.

The Westgate SuperBook is the granddaddy of sports-viewing venues in Las Vegas. It was a game-changer when it was built for $17 million in 1986 in what was then known as the Las Vegas Hilton and received an extensive renovation three years ago. Walking into the 25,000-square-foot area, fans are confronted by a 220-by-20-foot, 4K video wall that can be divided up into a number of configurations depending on action around the league at a particular time.

The Westgate is known as the home of Nevada's largest wagering menu and for its NFL season-long SuperContest, one of the most prestigious football handicapping contests in the world. The hotel also hosts Football Central, which it touts as the largest free pro football party in Las Vegas. Held every Sunday during the NFL season in the Westgate International Theater near the sports book, it features 1,500 seats, food and beverage specials and betting stations.

Not to be overlooked are the luxurious accommodations at Wynn's Race & Sports Book. Its high-def, LED video wall is 127 feet wide and 11 feet high. A gently curved layout allows for maximized views of 35 additional monitors.

Lagasse's Stadium, featuring the famous chef's food, is one of the most sought-after spots to watch games on the Strip.
Lagasse's Stadium, featuring the famous chef's food, is one of the most sought-after spots to watch games on the Strip. Photo Credit: The Venetian Resort Las Vegas

Another can't-miss football-viewing experience in Las Vegas is the unique Lagasse's Stadium in the Palazzo. Fans order a wide array of famed chef Emeril Lagasse's signature dishes in stadium-style seating. There are plenty of televisions, betting windows, billiards tables and even an outdoor patio. Call it a lounge, call it bar, call it a book but call it an unforgettable way to spend a Saturday or Sunday in the fall.

The newest sports book in town is Circa Sports' modest but well appointed, 1,297-square-foot venue at the Golden Gate downtown; Circa also opened a satellite at its sister property, the D Las Vegas. Both are preludes to a highly anticipated multilevel, stadium- style sports book at Circa Resort & Casino downtown to open in December 2020.

Many more sports books compete for bettors' attention, and the numbers are staggering. Despite 2018 being the first year when legal bookmakers began operating in several other states, Nevada books took in a record $5 billion in wagers, with a record $1.8 billion bet on football, according to David G. Schwartz of UNLV's Center for Gaming Research in his report, "Nevada Sports Betting Totals: 1984-2018." The total amount bet on football in Nevada since 1992: $31.9 billion.

Fans can expect those numbers to grow even more now that the NFL has embraced the sports betting capital of the world, selecting Caesars Entertainment Corp. as its first Official Casino Sponsor, a relationship unthinkable just a few years ago before the Raiders announced their move to the city. The NFL had traditionally banned Las Vegas commercials from its Super Bowl telecasts, and broadcasters were discouraged from directly mentioning point spreads during games.

Although the sponsorship does not directly include any betting or fantasy football element, Caesars properties have the exclusive right to use NFL trademarks to promote their properties for key events, including the Super Bowl and the NFL Draft. The deal, announced in January, is worth $30 million annually for three years, according to the Associated Press.

The relationship between Vegas and the league has progressed to the point where the 2020 NFL Draft will take place April 23 to 25 on the Las Vegas Strip. Caesars properties will likely take the lead in hosting elements of the draft, which has become a major spectacle for fans to attend and watch on TV.

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