Formula One throws wrench in Las Vegas Grand Prix with millions in fees for clubs to view: report

A shakedown struck the Las Vegas Strip as venues decried the alleged consequences they’d face for failing to fork over millions for a Formula One (F1) race.

The third weekend in November stands to be a profitable one for many businesses in the gambling mecca when F1 holds the first Las Vegas Grand Prix. However, clubs and restaurants along the course could find themselves barricaded or blinded if certain financial demands aren’t met, the New York Post reported.

A letter distributed by F1, owned by Liberty Media, rang of extortion to businesses as it informed, “Las Vegas Grand Prix will use reasonable efforts to maintain sightedness from licensee’s venue to the track/race.”

“The license fee will equal the maximum occupancy of licensee’s venue (per fire code) multiplied by $1,500,” the proposal stated.

“They are literally shaking people down saying they will obstruct views unless they pay them,” one casino owner told the Post. “It seems insane that they are asking money for a public event that is taking place in the streets.”

Having gained a permit to hold the race in Vegas through 2032, with a course passing the Bellagio, Caesars Palace and The Mirage, the organization, valued at $8.8 billion when billionaire John Malone’s Liberty acquired it in 2016, stands to make a fortune if venues are made to comply.

“For a restaurant or club with 1,500 seats, the tab would soar to a whopping $2.25 million — regardless of how many guests can catch views from their roof decks, terraces and dining areas,” the New York Post reported.

Asking for the licensing fees had stretched to pressure, according to one source who asserted “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 seat. They are trying to limit people’s ability to capitalize on the race.”

“There is a real chance of obstructing views with stands and barricades,” one source told the Post as there were claims Renee Wilm, Las Vegas Grand Prix CEO and Liberty Media’s chief legal officer, had tossed out the idea of shining lights into non-paying venues to block out the nighttime race. “I know the hotels are upset about it and they are trying to figure out if they’ll play along.”

Whether or not the racing organization had concerns that local venues’ inability to capitalize on the event would hurt their bottom line was unknown. What was known was that F1 had paid nearly $10 million for the use of a parking lot to put up their own stands and King Casino Bonus reported the average ticket price for the three-day event had reached $6,651.

Meanwhile, the casinos were said to have gobbled a considerable number of passes to throw together executive deals like the $5 million “Emperor Package” from Caesars Entertainment announced in December that includes five nights in a 4,700 square-foot suite with views of the track, a chauffeured Rolls-Royce and tickets to see Adele. Others had their own offers.

General admission for three days at the race started at $500.

Kevin Haggerty

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