F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix Views Revving Up Controversy

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Formula One executives have stirred controversy ahead of the Las Vegas Grand Prix in November. They have created an argument over viewing rights to the race track that will be going through much of the iconic Las Vegas Strip.

According to a casino executive who spoke to the New York Post, race officials are demanding that Las Vegas restaurants and nightclubs with a view of the upcoming race circuit pay $1,500 per head in licensing rights.

If these establishments refuse to pay, their views could potentially be obstructed with barricades, stands, light stanchions, and other fixtures used for the race.

The Grand Prix will run a 3.8-mile circuit through the heart of the Las Vegas Strip, and organizers are reportedly unhappy about the prospect of entertainment venues getting a free view of the event.

Casino operators, meanwhile, are concerned that any excess fees passed on to customers by smaller venues could prove expensive for prospective casino goers.

“There is a certain line they are crossing [by] telling someone who has spent billions on their property that you are shutting the Strip down for construction and then asking them to pay for seats,” said a source close to the situation.

A Game of Chicken with High Stakes

The situation is further complicated by the fact that most of the racecourse won’t be built until two weeks before the big race, leaving plenty of time for this game of chicken to play out. However, not all establishments are being asked to pay the hefty licensing fee.

The Wynn and Venetian, for instance, have already paid between $2 million and $10 million each to be official race sponsors. However, some of their restaurants are still being asked to pay the licensing fees.

The Las Vegas Grand Prix is expected to draw as many as 300,000 F1 fans who will have paid an average of $6,651 for three-day race access. For a club or eatery with a fire-code capacity of 2,000, the demanded licensing fee could amount to a hefty $3 million.

An extra couple of million here and there might not seem like a lot in a state where the casinos make a billion dollars a month – but not all the Strip casinos and night clubs are giant corporations.

Any excess costs for smaller Las Vegas Strip venues could easily be passed on to customers, jacking up the cost for your average race fan, who might think twice about a night of gambling when race tickets have cost $7k and everything else has been priced up.

Las Vegas is, however, also busy putting on a host of extra private jet parking for international jet setters who will be attending the race, which is a group who probably won’t be worried about an extra $1,000 restaurant surcharge for racetrack views.

A Unique Solution

While the controversy continues, one company has found a novel way to take advantage.

Maverick Helicopters, a vertical tour company, announced a series of experiences for F1 fans priced lower than most grandstand seats. These experiences, offered from Nov. 15 through Nov. 18, range from a basic, 12-minute “Vegas Victory Lap” flyover to a sunset tour that also includes a stop at the Grand Canyon.

However, there’s a catch. The last tours depart at 8 p.m., two hours before the Grand Prix’s starting gun on Saturday, Nov. 18.

With all the international attention on the race and well-heeled visitors flying in, you can hardly blame operators for cashing in,

Formula One, estimated worth $17.1 billion, has not commented on the story so far.  

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