Big spenders are set to boost Las Vegas service workers’ earnings during Super Bowl weekend, but maybe not by much.
Sin City expects to host more than 330,000 visitors as the San Francisco 49ers face off against the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL’s title game on Sunday.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority expects the matchup to generate $600 million in economic impact for the city, though the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says the broader payoff can take time to be fully realized, estimating Arizona’s statewide haul at $1.3 billion after Phoenix hosted last year.
Much of that will come from attendance at Allegiant Stadium itself, where the least expensive seat was going for $5,700 on StubHub by Friday morning and the priciest neared $19,000. After fans splurged for a place in the stands, some stadium workers fear even the most well-heeled among them may not have much to spare for their tip jars — especially at a time of widespread “tipflation” fatigue.
“Honestly, because of the price of the seats, I’m hoping they’ll have enough to even give us tips,” stadium employee Michael Santa Cruz said with a laugh.
The 63-year-old refreshment stand worker was taking a few days to rest up before clocking in 6:30 a.m. Sunday for the big game, where he’ll work until 9 at night.
“We’re assuming the people that come there have money,” he said, but “we’ve had people by the same token that come in and say, ‘Wow, $18 for a beer!?’ and they’ll walk away and they won’t tip us.”
“It’s understandable,” added Santa Cruz, who has worked at the stadium — the home of the Las Vegas Raiders — since July 2020 earning $13 an hour.
Beyond the arena, visitors will be shelling out on everything from souvenirs to a small galaxy of game-related festivities, such as a “Super Bowl Experience” at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center ($50 tickets) and “Shaq’s Fun House,” a Shaquille O’Neal-fronted poolside nightclub with carnival games and music (tickets start at $149.99). Fans heading to Vegas expressly for the Super Bowl are forecast to drop about $215 million on food, drinks, hotels and football swag alone, the Chamber estimates.
Many will be paying top dollar, which could help juice earnings for the more than 300,000 hospitality workers in Las Vegas, industry experts said.
“Historically, we see that when room rates are high in the city, it attracts consumers with higher disposable incomes, which translates into higher tips,” said Amanda Belarmino, an assistant professor of hospitality at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Average daily rates for Vegas hotels hit $570 for the Friday before the game (the most expensive night), more than twice the $220 average when the city hosted the Formula 1 Grand Prix last fall, according to Hotels.com.
But because most local hospitality workers are union members whose pay is dictated by contracts, “it does not necessarily translate to higher salaries for line-level workers,” Belarmino said, though “it will enable some part-time union workers to get more hours.”
The Culinary Workers Union Local 226, which represents over 60,000 Las Vegas hospitality employees — from bartenders and guest room attendants to laundry and kitchen staff at resort casinos on and off the Strip — reached tentative contract agreements with major operators days ahead of the Super Bowl. The deals are expected to push the average member’s earnings up from around $28 an hour, including their benefits, to $37 an hour including benefits over five years, said union spokeswoman Bethany Khan.
Santa Cruz, who works for a food and beverage contractor at the stadium and is involved in efforts to join the culinary union, said he’s hoping to “break at least $350” in tips on Sunday but added, “That’s not a guarantee.” He said he typically pulls in around $200 in gratuities during NFL games.
Allegiant Stadium was early to embrace the digital card readers that have become a growing source of tips for many retail and service workers. But as those systems proliferate, consumers are getting sick of their ubiquitous tipping prompts — and often have no trouble ignoring them, NBC News has reported.
For workers at restaurants that use Square’s payment system, the growth of tips as a share of take-home pay is slower in Sin City than elsewhere, the company said. It rose there just 3 percentage points since 2020 to hit 20%, versus a 5-percentage-point gain topping out at 21% nationwide.
Vegas restaurant workers’ overall compensation also lags the national average, according to Square. Their median base pay of $13 is about $1 shy of the U.S. rate, and the gap widens to $1.50 after tips and overtime, which clock in around $16.17 in the metro area. However, Square said restaurant staffers’ earnings in the city are growing faster than they are nationally.
To help encourage nonunion tip-earners to work Super Bowl weekend, some Las Vegas employers are charging customers extra.
On top of surge pricing, Uber is adding a $10 surcharge for rides to the stadium on Sunday afternoon, rising to $25 in the evening, that it says will go straight to drivers. Lyft said it was “planning increased incentives for drivers the week of the game” but no additional fees for stadium trips.
Many employers in Vegas already require fixed-rate gratuities, potentially making the promise of tips during the Super Bowl no better or worse than on any other day.
Omni Limousine, which has a fleet of 90 vehicles, hasn’t raised rates for this weekend but was fully booked for the big game five months ago, “mostly by our regular corporate and celebrity customers,” said general manager Richard Samuels.
The company charges an automatic 20% chauffeur gratuity on all rides, and drivers can still accept additional cash tips, Samuels said.
“The Formula 1 race in November was a warmup,” he said. “No one knows what to expect from the Super Bowl.”