2022 NFL Draft Continues Football’s Increased Involvement in Las Vegas

ARLINGTON, TX – APRIL 26: The Philadelphia Eagles logo on the video board during the first round at the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington Texas. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

Las Vegas, Nevada will host the 2022 NFL Draft next week for the first time in the event’s 86-year history. The first round will take place on Thursday, April 28, followed by the second and third rounds on Friday, April 29, and the remaining four rounds on Saturday, April 30.

When the Philadelphia Eagles make their selections, expect to see incredible spectacles that highlight the Las Vegas experience. The venue will include a red carpet built on Bellagio Fountain, a “Draft Experience” football theme park, and a draft theatre with live entertainment.

The league originally hoped to hold the 2020 NFL Draft in Vegas, but complications surrounding the pandemic prevented the event from ushering in the first season of the Las Vegas Raiders after their relocation from Oakland.

Raiders Paving the Way for NFL Involvement in Vegas

It wasn’t long ago that the NFL went to extreme lengths to stop the promotion of essentially anything related to the city of Las Vegas in an effort to avoid any association with gambling. In 2003, the league blocked all Super Bowl commercials that promoted tourism to Las Vegas. They slightly loosened restrictions six years later but still maintained a fairly excessive stance. 

The relocation of the Raiders to Allegiant Stadium, which is within walking distance of the Las Vegas strip, became a huge step for the NFL to increase its leniency for the growing industry of sports gambling. 

The attractive vacation destination has also become a popular trip for visiting fan bases, and Philly Sports Trips cashed in when the Eagles faced the Raiders in October. They hope to replicate their success next week.

Allegiant Stadium hosted the Pro Bowl on Feb. 6. The NFL’s All-Star matchup will never provide fans with a competitive product with superstars playing to the highest of their abilities. However, the festivities ran smoothly throughout the entire weekend, and the event was a good way to promote the game in a new and exciting location. The East-West Shrine Bowl, a college All-Star showcase, was also held in Vegas three days before the Pro Bowl.

Las Vegas will also host Super Bowl LVIII in February 2024. A scheduling conflict in New Orleans created an unexpected opening and moved up the league’s timeline to award the city as the host of its signature event.

Calvin Ridley learned the hard way that the NFL has not completely abandoned its strict stances on gambling. The Atlanta Falcons wide receiver will sit out the entire 2022 season for betting on NFL games. A large part of the rationale for the severe punishment was to set a strict precedent for players with opportunities to break league gambling policies in similar situations.

Commissioner Roger Goodell received significant backlash for issuing the punishment, mainly because the suspension exceeds bans given out to players with alleged involvement in domestic abuse. The NFL will need to address inconsistencies in various policies now that partnership with the city of Las Vegas and other gambling entities is rapidly increasing.

Las Vegas- A Professional Sports Hub

The Vegas Golden Knights became the first major professional sports franchise to find a home in Sin City in 2017. NHL expansion in Vegas became an instant success when the Knights advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season. Their presence was an important rallying point for the local community following the largest mass shooting in US history. They have now advanced to the league’s semifinal round in three of their four seasons of existence.

NBA Summer League games in Las Vegas began in 2004 with just six teams participating. By 2018, all 32 teams had joined in for the showcase of young talent that is perfectly positioned on the sports calendar. The 2007 NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas didn’t run nearly as smoothly, but it was later called a “learning opportunity and a building block that helped Las Vegas to where it is now in the sports world” by a city official.

Las Vegas has all of a sudden become a hub for professional sports. MLB expansion is also reportedly on the table. The NHL All-Star Game festivities coincided with the Pro Bowl in February, and the festivities incorporated the city’s character well. One event during the skills competition even used a blackjack-style scoring system for players shooting pucks from a platform on the Bellagio Fountain.

Draft History in Philadelphia

Eagles fans will enjoy the excitement of slot machines, blackjack, and other casino-themed touches throughout the weekend of the NFL Draft, but they should also know the storied history of Philadelphia as a draft location.

New York City hosted the draft from 1965 until 2014 when the league decided to alternate cities. Outside of the Big Apple, Philadelphia is the most common host as the site of 13 drafts. 

The first NFL Draft took place in 1936 at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Center City. Bert Bell, founder of the Philadelphia Eagles and later NFL commissioner, pioneered the idea of the draft as a way to create parity for his lowly team in their early days.

The Eagles selected Jay Berwanger with the first-overall pick in 1936. The former Heisman Trophy winner never played a down for the Birds because of financial disputes.

The NFL Draft returned to its original home city in 2017 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The event was an overwhelming success and a catalyst for the aura of positivity that invaded a fan base that had suffered for the previous 83 years. The Eagles finally won their first Super Bowl in franchise history the following season. 

Philadelphia police reported zero arrests connected to the event, a fact that some national media members don’t bother to consider when they skim the surface for a halfhearted hot take about the terrible behavior of Philadelphia sports fans.

The draft will move to Kansas City in 2023, but the facilities and execution in 2017 will certainly keep Philadelphia in consideration as a future host.

Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire