LAS VEGAS – Kickoff for the first Sunday games of the NFL season was still hours away when Willie Scott headed to the sports book at Westgate Las Vegas Resort Casino.
It was 6:30 a.m. and the Dallas postal worker, on his annual football pilgrimage with an old Navy shipmate, was determined to get prime seats in the sports-watching shrine.
He’d spent six hours there watching college football the day before and planned to spend 12 hours watching NFL games from his third-row seat near the aisle, tracking the players on his fantasy team and rooting against the Dallas Cowboys. (He was wearing the jersey of Cowboys Hall of Fame defensive back Mel Renfro but hates team owner Jerry Jones.)
Scott, 60, loves the camaraderie, betting, down-to-earth crowd and wall of TV screens befitting an IMAX theater.
“I think there is no other place in the world to watch football,” Scott said. “I look forward to this every year. I’m like a kid in the candy store.”
Las Vegas will be football central through the Super Bowl in early February, drawing fervid fans, fantasy fanatics and visitors simply rooting for the home team or their alma mater in between gambling, the pool, shopping and shows.
Casinos, bars and restaurants compete for football fans’ dollars, touting food and drink specials, TV specs, mobile betting and even VIP sections. Blackjack dealers at many casinos wear football jerseys on game days. Electronic billboards at hotels up and down The Strip scream “come here to watch football.” Strip clubs even get in on the action, with Crazy Horse III promoting topless tailgate parties.
The Linq Promenade, an outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment district between the Flamingo and Linq hotels, hosted a daylong kickoff party on opening weekend, which began Sept. 8, with live music, a DJ and street performers. Fans who wore jerseys got $10 off a ride on the High Roller observation wheel and buy-one-get-one free cupcakes at Sprinkles.
Peoria resident Tom O’Connell has an 82-inch TV at home but headed to Las Vegas for opening weekend for his second consecutive year. He watched the Cardinals-Patriots game at the sports book at Mirage Hotel Casino, wearing a red Arizona Cardinals golf shirt and a black cap.
“It’s just a fun time to come up and watch all the games,” he said.
Want to join the fun? We spent opening week traversing The Strip and a couple of outlying casino hotels, visiting sports bars, sports books, restaurants and other spots in search of the best places to catch all the action.
Here are 20 places to check out. There’s something for every budget, viewing style and travel taste, from a hole-in-the-wall casino serving 20-ounce beers for a buck to a celebrity chef restaurant charging a $75 minimum in food and beverage to nab a seat. Every place we visited has Wi-Fi.
We skipped Yardhouse, Tilted Kilt and other chain restaurants and bars because you can go to those places at home. Downtown didn’t make the cut this time but regulars and locals like the small, recently renovated sports book at The California Hotel Casino and Pizza Rock restaurant.
1. Westgate Las Vegas Resort Casino SuperBook
Perfect for: Football fanatics and bettors looking for an electric atmosphere. Westgate, the former Las Vegas Hilton just off the north end of The Strip, recently upgraded its 25,000-square-foot race and sports book, outfitting it with a huge LED video wall. There are more than 400 seats and they go fast, especially on Sunday. The place, which is popular with locals and tourists, is standing-room only before 9 a.m.
TVs: The high-definition video wall, which is 240 feet wide and 20 feet tall, is the stunning centerpiece. Smaller TVs are scattered throughout.
Beer money: $4 Budweiser draft, $5 Bud Light bottle.
Bloody Mary: $8.
Food: Grab a sandwich, including breakfast sandwiches and burritos, at the SuperBook Deli.
Pro tips: Don’t wait until Sunday morning to place a bet because there are snaking lines up until kickoff. Consider the Las Vegas Monorail if you’re staying at the south end of The Strip. There’s a station at the Westgate.
Details: 702-732-5111, westgatelasvegas.com.
2. Caesars Palace Race Sports Book
Perfect for: Football fanatics and bettors seeking a bustling, classy sports book in the center of The Strip with a dazzling new video wall that makes one of those giant Costco TVs seem like an iPhone screen. A VIP package is the way to go because it’s standing room only unless you arrive super early. The packages are so popular that they have their own booking website: loungereserve.com. There are two options: $75 for lower-level seating and three drinks or $300 for upper-level seating and unlimited drinks.
TVs: The hotel brags that its new video wall is the largest on The Strip (Westgate, which claims it has the largest video wall in the world, is off The Strip) and features six 12-foot by 15-foot screens, a 20-foot by 50-foot LED board and 12 50-inch plasma screens.
Beer money: $40 for a bucket of five beers.
Bloody Mary: $14.
Food: Take a break from football and duck into Mesa Grill, celebrity chef Bobby Flay’s restaurant right by the sports book, for goat cheese queso fundido and other Southwestern dishes.
Pro tip: Don’t want to spend the cash for a VIP package? Get there early to nab a seat at the video-poker bar, which has great views of the giant screens. Don’t expect to sit there and drink for free all day by putting a $20 bill in the machine like you can at some video-poker bars. Employees monitor play closely during games and parcel out drinks based on your gambling. A more intimate option for watching games at Caesars Palace is Vista Lounge.
Details: 702-731-7110, caesars.com/caesars-palace.
3. Beer Park Las Vegas
Perfect for: Outdoor football watching with great views of The Strip and a side of billiards, Jenga or Connect Four. The large rooftop bar and grill at Paris Las Vegas overlooks the Bellagio Fountains and Paris’ Eiffel Tower. Seating options include bars, a counter overlooking The Strip, picnic tables, Adirondack chairs and couches. During night games, plop on one of the comfy couches if you can and just try not to doze off during commercials. (I failed.) Nighttime is the perfect time to snap Instagram-worthy shots of The Strip. There are 100 draft and bottled beers. Don’t expect any football special pricing, though.
TVs: Dozens of varying sizes scattered throughout the bars and seating areas.
Beer money: $35 for a bucket of five beers.
Bloody Mary: $14.
Food: Try the chile verde pork nachos. There’s a football brunch on Sundays. Breakfast is available during football games.
Pro tip: When you want a break from football, snag a stool at the Strip-side counter and watch the Bellagio fountains.
Details: 702-444-4500, beerpark.com.
4. Umami Burger Beer Garden and Sports Book, SLS Las Vegas
Perfect for: Football and gourmet burgers in a living-room-like setting at the north end of The Strip. One group of guys was sprawled out on the couches on Saturday, feet up or hanging off the arm, watching football on four screens. They paid $75 per person to reserve the area and it included appetizers, beer and burgers. There also are several reservable booths with individual TVs. Prices vary by day.
TVs: Scattered throughout.
Beer money: $2 Bud Light, $8 pitchers.
Bloody Mary: $13.
Food: What else? Burgers and truffle fries.
Pro tip: Take the Las Vegas monorail unless you have a big group, which makes an Uber, Lyft or taxi cheaper. There’s a station at the SLS.
Details: 702-761-7000, slsvegas.com.
5. Red Rock Casino Resort Spa Sports Book
Perfect for: Fans looking for a first-class, affordable spot off The Strip. Red Rock is 10 miles west of The Strip. Sit at the sports-book bar and enjoy the best football beer special around and friendly bartenders. We were sold when our Uber driver, a Las Vegas real estate agent, said it’s where he drinks on Sundays. A highlight of the trip.
TVs: A wall of screens in the sports book and TVs above the bar and scattered throughout, including a big screen above some slot machines just outside the sports book.
Beer money: $5 for a bucket of five beers (Budweiser, Bud Light or Michelob Ultra).
Bloody Mary: $2.50.
Food: Nachos (basically tortilla chips and warmed-up cheese) for $2.
Pro tip: Take an Uber or Lyft from The Strip so there’s no drinking and driving.
Details: 702-797-7777, redrock.sclv.com.
6. Brooklyn Bowl, The Linq Promenade
Perfect for: Casual fans looking for good food and a side of bowling and music during night games. The cavernous restaurant, concert hall and bowling alley shows the games in the bar and in the upscale bowling lanes. The place was empty for Thursday Night Football on opening week.
TVs: Scattered throughout, including high-definition big screens in the bowling alley.
Beer money: Draft beers start at $6.
Bloody Mary: $12.
Food: Order the fried chicken wings and slather them in honey and chili sauce.
Pro tip: Get there when it opens at 5 p.m. to take advantage of happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. daily, when drinks and appetizers are 50 percent off. Also, check the website for frequent private events and concerts, which often close the restaurant.
Details: 702-862-2695, brooklynbowl.com/las-vegas.