SBJ/October 10 - 16, 2005/SBJ In Depth

Casinos still hold biggest payday punch

Fights held in major U.S. arenas hit the comeback trail this year, with major cards in Tampa, Chicago, St. Louis and Los Angeles each drawing more than 15,000 fans. But the dominant players for big fights remain Las Vegas’ casino arenas, such as those at the MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay and Caesars Palace.

Casino arenas marry the benefits of seating bowls that hold upward of 10,000 to those of a casino that can use ticket sales as a loss-leader on the way to profits from gaming, hotels and restaurants.

They also can demand higher prices than traditional sporting venues. When combined with the ancillary money they make on a fight weekend, they are in a position to pay site fees upward of $3 million, which is well beyond the means of what large arenas outside Vegas can afford for most fights.

When the MGM Grand in Las Vegas hosted the Bernard Hopkins-Jermain Taylor fight in July, it generated $3,132,350 from 11,293 tickets sold, or an average of $277 per person, according to reports filed with state regulators.

Big fights not only drive large crowds through the casinos, they put heads in hotel beds. MGM/Mirage estimates that 50 percent to 60 percent of a crowd for a big fight comes from out of town and that most will stay at one of the company’s 11 properties on the strip.

“The (fights) we go after are the ones that we believe will create an excitement for the property,” said Richard Sturm, president and COO of MGM/Mirage Entertainment and Sports. “We not only want to sell tickets, but to make it an event enough for our customers to want to fly in. … Those folks are affluent people”

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