In Las Vegas—More Sports Means More Security

March 6, 2024
As Las Vegas adds professional sports teams and large-scale sporting events, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is ready.

Despite being a thriving amusement oasis in the Nevada desert for a good portion of the 20th century, Las Vegas was conspicuously without one major form of entertainment in America: a major professional sports team. Ironically, the state’s legal sports betting industry and potential issues over the integrity of game results kept the big four sports leagues from setting up teams in the city.

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That changed in 2017 when the NHL set up an expansion team, the Golden Knights. In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court opened the door to allow legalized sports betting throughout much of the country. With much of the stigma surrounding sports gambling eroded away, Las Vegas attracted its first NFL franchise when the Raiders moved to the city from Oakland, California in 2020. As the team was finishing its second season in Las Vegas—and, as mentioned, with much of the previous stigma surrounding sports gambling eroded away—the league announced a second coup for the city and awarded Las Vegas Super Bowl LVIII in 2024.

Conventional wisdom stands that one of the most coveted U.S. sporting events to host is the Super Bowl, a single-day event that spans roughly a week thanks to many of the fan-related activities leading up to the big game. Officials expect as many as 450,000 people to visit the city for the Feb. 11 event, with most fans and spectators checking out the game at a casino or resort. Such an influx of humanity can give the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department—an agency familiar with its share of largedraw events—a slight pause.

“We have an events planning section that I think is the best in the world in putting on events, and they really started putting together the plans (well over a year ago),” Deputy Chief Dori Koren tells OFFICER Magazine. “We sent teams out to the Super Bowls in Los Angeles and in Phoenix. So, two Super Bowls where we set our teams to get hands-on and eyes-on experience on what and how they did what they did, and then we’ve been working extensively with the Super Bowl host committee, which they have a lot of experience putting on Super Bowls, as well as our NFL security reps working closely with them to create a unique design for Las Vegas.”

The LVMPD has worked closely with its state and federal law enforcement agencies to help create that design. Because the Super Bowl has been designated a SEAR Level 1 Event by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a 300-foot perimeter was set up around Allegiant Stadium. Plannings and briefings with partners also take into consideration some of the unusual aspects of Las Vegas that aren’t found in other Super Bowl host cities.

“Unlike any other city, we have such a large contingent of private security personnel up and down the Las Vegas Strip and in the downtown area,” says Koren. “All of those casino, hotel and resort and entertainment partners have been lockstep with us in putting together good plans.”

Formula One test run

Even though Las Vegas is relatively new to the professional sports scene, the LVMPD has had to prepare for more largescale sporting events in the past few years than some U.S. cities have seen in decades. The city hosted the 2022 NFL Draft, which has become a destination event for football fans in recent years, and it saw a victory parade for the Knights after the team won the Stanley Cup last year. And in an unofficial lead-up to the Super Bowl, the LVMPD handled the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix in November, a Formula One race that took place around a street track around the Las Vegas Strip.

“The Formula One Las Vegas event was unprecedented in terms of complexity and how much work had to go into making sure that event was safe and secure,” says Koren. “Because with F1, it was a much bigger footprint that encompassed almost the entire Strip, and it required opening and closing that entire part of the Strip every single night for five nights, so much more complex and large scale. I don’t want to minimize it all. The Super Bowl is also a world renowned event that’s going to require a lot of effort.”

Although the Las Vegas Grand Prix and the Super Bowl can seem like tourist-specific events, Koren says the department doesn’t forget about the residents that make the city their permanent home. “Our sheriff, Sheriff Kevin McMahill, has always made it a priority to ensure that our local community, our neighborhoods, the people that live here all the time and aren’t just visiting, that they get the best level of service possible, regardless of what comes in in terms of tourism,” he says. “And so we have plans in place where we make sure we protect our neighborhoods, and we’re not pulling officers out of those neighborhoods without ensuring that whatever organization needs the extra coverage is not only paying for those resources, but also that we are backfilling it with enough resources to make sure that the neighborhoods stay safe.

“It’s always been a priority for him, for all of us. It’s our own police officers that work here. It’s our friends, our family, our significant others that live here, work here. And we have to keep everyone safe. So that’s a priority. It always has been.”

Las Vegas has never been a city that has lacked for attention. It has been a destination for big-name musical acts and small-scale bachelor and bachelorette parties. Now, the sporting world is putting the city in a new light.

“I think Vegas is doing extremely well. Our community is really flourishing,” says Koren. “And it’s not just the Super Bowl. There’s really been three events recently that have shown that Vegas is the place to be, not just for entertainment, but a good place to live and have a family and have a successful career. We started off with F1 and broke the mold and created an event that’s unlike anything else that’s ever been done in the world and did it successfully. And then we had another New Year’s event, which we’ve shown every year that this community has one of the best New Year’s Eve parties in the world. And then now we’re about to have the Super Bowl, which at a brand new, beautiful stadium on the Las Vegas Strip. I think we’ll be able to show everyone that Vegas is probably the best city right now to live in and visit in the world right now."

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