Wednesday, July 26, 2023 | 1:28 p.m.
Formula One is threatening to block the views of Strip venues overlooking the Las Vegas Grand Prix course unless they pay a licensing fee, according to reports.
The Nov. 18 race will shut down the Strip and some surrounding side streets for the 3.8-mile course, bringing the spectacle that is single-seat, open-cockpit cars zooming along Las Vegas Boulevard at speeds up to 223 mph.
But if venues with Strip views — Beer Park at Paris, Drai’s Las Vegas at Cromwell or Ocean Prime near City Center, for instance — want to let people watch the event from their restaurants or clubs, race organizers are demanding a fee of $1,500 per person, the New York Post reported Sunday.
The Post reported Liberty Media, the parent company of Formula One, sent a letter to establishments seeking licensing payments and threatening to install barriers to block views of the race course if they don’t pay.
It is also threatening “that lights will be shined toward the viewing areas of unlicensed venues, blinding guests trying to get a peek at the nighttime race,” according to the Post.
Race officials wouldn’t confirm to the Sun if the letter was sent or if the threats were valid but issued the following statement:
“Liberty Media and F1 have made a long-term investment to race in Las Vegas. We want the local community to benefit from our event, and we are confident that the race will bring tremendous economic value to Las Vegas as a whole. F1 commonly executes licensing agreements to protect its intellectual property rights, and the Las Vegas Grand Prix is following this same approach. In addition, these arrangements allow the Las Vegas Grand Prix to ensure the fan experience in its partner venues meets the expectations for this event.”
It’s uncertain which businesses Formula One is targeting with its licensing request, because many on the Strip are already partners with the race, including Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts, Resorts World, Venetian, Hard Rock International (Mirage) and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
The partnership allows them to construct Strip-adjacent grandstands and sell viewing tickets. It also means they can host official events using the league’s branding.
The Post story said “the hotels are upset about it and they are trying to figure out if they’ll play along.”
The Sun reached out to a handful of venues that could be impacted. Some indicated they were already having talks about licensing; others were still getting information and not ready to comment.
It’s not the first time Liberty Media, owned by billionaire John C. Malone, has come asking for money.
In May, it requested $40 million in public money from Clark County to help cover costs of infrastructure work, which a race representative said could be up to $80 million.
“We’re making a request because there’s a significant public purpose related to the improvements to Clark County’s roads that you all will own after those improvements and have exclusive use of after those improvements, with the exception of the race on an annual basis,” Stephanie Allen, a representative of the race, told the Clark County Commission.
The commission, on a narrow 4-3 vote, gave its approval for staff to begin negotiations on the county’s contribution. Commissioners Marilyn Kirkpatrick, Justin Jones and Michael Naft voted against the negotiations.
“Forty million, what’s $40 million? In our capital budget, that’s a lot,” Kirkpatrick said. “That’s somebody’s parks, that’s somebody’s recreation center, that’s some building that has duct tape on the carpet because we haven’t made it a priority. That’s what $40 million is to me.”
The 50-lap race is expected to bring 170,000 people to Las Vegas, officials said when announcing the event. The contract for the race is three years.
Liberty Media reportedly spent $290 million to purchase land at the corner of Koval Lane and Harmon Avenue for a 300,000-square-foot paddock facility that will serve as the group’s full-time headquarters in Las Vegas. It’s reportedly expected to pour $500 million into getting the race up and running.
But Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei told investors in April that the investment will be well worth it.
The Las Vegas Grand Prix will be the first race the league has contested on a Saturday in more than 40 years. Formula One is looking to make a splash in the U.S. market with cars being showcased under the bright lights of the Strip. It will also contest a race in October in Miami.
“I think there’s a lot of opportunity and Vegas I think can actually be a great kick start for that,” Maffei told investors, according to Yahoo Finance. “I think once we have the event in Vegas there’s going to be a whole new recognition for Formula 1 in the United States, which still is our most important sponsorship market.”
Maffei also knows who is watching the race will be important — whether that’s at a restaurant overlooking the Strip or those tuned in at home.
“A night race down the Strip, that’s going to be iconic, that 10 o’clock view… I think few Americans will not have seen that view at some point — that’s going to be on every piece of television imaginable, and I think that is going to kick off a new round of sponsor interest as well, and more broad sponsor interest,” he told investors.
Las Vegas Sun reporter Grace Da Rocha contributed to this report.