Updated February 12, 2024 - 3:01 pm
After a sluggish start, the first Super Bowl in Las Vegas became one for the ages, as fans visibly struggled to remember the playoff overtime rules.
We spent the biggest day in the city’s sports history at the biggest sportsbooks in the world.
Here’s some of what we saw:
United by the color red, divided by rooting interest, they arrived.
So, so many of them.
It’s an hour-and-a-half before kickoff on Super Bowl Sunday, and the SuperBook at the Westgate Resorts is already stuffed with thousands of spectators — the huge space feeling more like a phone booth somehow, with even the slot machines transformed into impromptu armchairs for fans watching the game. Some have been here since 4 a.m., vying for the few free rows of seats available.
Filling the place completely is no small feat for such a big room: At 30,000 square feet, the Westgate bills this as the world’s largest sportsbook.
What better place, then, to watch the Big Game make its Vegas debut than in an environment so distinctively evocative of this city in all of its signature more-is-always-more approach to, well, pretty much everything.
Navigating the room makes you feel kind of like one of the running backs toting the ball on one of the seven screens showing the game above, such is all the juking and lateral movement required to dodge fellow revelers.
The end zone?
The bar, of course, where cocktail servers in striped black-and-white referee getups buzz to and fro.
How intense is the crowd that’s assembled here en masse?
The mood of the room swings back and forth like the pendulum in a grandfather clock — if said clock was positioned on a suddenly awakened fault line.
When Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco fumbles near the goal line in the second quarter after the team had completed a big pass the play before, Chiefs faithful reacted as if they were witnessing this huge Hindenburg of hope suddenly go up in flames.
The crowds at SuperBook are always big for the Big Game, but with the Super Bowl in town for the first time, the draw is even more outsized.
“It’s the biggest demand I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” says Gordon Prouty, vice president of public and community relations at the Westgate, working his fifth Super Bowl at the property. “I didn’t really know what to expect. I’ve always said that if you can’t be in the city where the game is, you’ve got to be in Vegas. And we’ve always seen that. But this year it’s been even more so. I think people thought, ‘It’s Vegas, I want to be there.’ ”
The Super Bowl overtakes more than SuperBook at the Westgate: The International Theater, where Elvis once held court, is also filled with over 1,000 fans watching the game. In a ballroom nearby, VIPs nosh on football-shaped chocolate-covered strawberries at a private viewing party. A convention space hosts yet another large gathering.
The game has consumed the entire property.
It’s also consumed the emotions of those watching here.
The collective tension that filled this already over-full room as the Chiefs and 49ers traded fourth-quarter blows en route to overtime was the stuff that heart defibrillators were made for.
“This is (messing) me up! This is (messing) me up!” a female 49ers fan in a Deebo Samuel jersey repeated over and over like a mantra, speaking for pretty much everyone here while using slightly more colorful verbiage than “messing.”
When the Chiefs scored the game-winning touchdown with seconds left in the game, the room exploded in a cocktail of disbelief, dismay and delight.
Chiefs fans waved and bellowed “goodbye!” to their 49ers counterparts, who obliged and trudged home.
Whether elated or crestfallen, one thing united everyone — all left seeing red.
Circa sports book
Robin Morgan leaped to her feet with the excitement of an audience member who’d just been told to “come on down” on “The Price Is Right.”
She threw her hands in the air and clapped, looking for someone, anyone, to high-five. She wiggled all over. At one point, she bunny-hopped.
The 62-year-old retiree from Detroit, who booked her travel two weeks before Thanksgiving when she was convinced her Lions would be playing at Allegiant Stadium this weekend, had just cashed in when the coin toss came up heads.
She’d wagered three dollars.
Such was the level of excitement early on in the Circa sportsbook.
But with a scoreless first quarter, there weren’t many reasons to make noise until the halftime show, when Usher and friends turned the Overhang Bar on the second floor into a dance floor. With sportsbook seating options starting at $400 and topping out at $7,000, fans were stacked 20 deep in places on that second level, bobbing up and down to the performance.
Music was the order of the day up at Circa Swim, aka the world’s wettest sportsbook. A DJ played during the hours leading up to the game, and then during commercial breaks.
Richard Calderon was among the first guests through the doors when the pool opened at 11 a.m. The 47-year-old from Visalia, California, was dressed head to toe in Dallas Cowboys gear. “As long as the Niners lose,” he said, “I win.” He won.
With sunny skies and temperatures in the low 50s, coats, hoodies and turtlenecks were the attire of choice for the early hours of the pool party, where the cost ranged from $300 for general admission to a suite that came with a minimum food and beverage spend of $30,000. Later, during the game, coverage ranged from parkas to barely-there bikinis.
Back indoors, by the time San Francisco took the lead with a fourth-quarter touchdown, both levels of the casino were approaching New Year’s Eve levels of claustrophobia.
When Patrick Mahomes found Mecole Hardman for the winning touchdown in overtime, the casino floor exploded in celebrations as Chiefs fans jumped around as best they could in cramped quarters. One fan inexplicably chanted, “Raiiiii-derrrrrs!”
Alan and Diane Downing of Hays, Kansas, watched the game in a center booth in the sportsbook. Alan, 66, wore a Chiefs T-shirt under a sport coat emblazoned with the KC logo. Diane, 63, sported a sparkly Patrick Mahomes jersey.
Season ticket holders for 36 years, the Downings bought plane tickets two months ago, hoping their Chiefs would be here. The couple, who’ve been in town since Thursday, scouted the sportsbook during a trip a year and a half ago.
“Hell of a game, wasn’t it?” Alan said, as the reality of the win sunk in.
He’d bet on the Chiefs to win, but lost overall by betting the over.
He didn’t seem to care.
Contact Jason Bracelin at email@example.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @jbracelin76 on Instagram. Contact Christopher Lawrence at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on X.