Casinos welcome NFR rodeo

December 04, 2001 9:08 AM
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Casinos all over town are gearing up for the NFR crowd, which will hurd into the city starting Friday and continuing for 10 days.

Casino operators are excited, especially because the rodeo crowd has traditionally been good casino customers.

“We’re happy to have them back,” said one Strip casino manager. “These folks like to play the games and they’re not shy about spreading the money around.”

For the last 16 years, the National Finals Rodeo has provided excitement for Las Vegas audiences in 8-second bursts. During this rip roarin’ time it’s hip-huggin’ jeans, snakeskin boots and Stetson hats as cowboys and cowgirls from across North America invade Las Vegas for what is sometimes called the “Superbowl of Rodeos.” The NFR takes place at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of UNLV.

Throughout the year, members of the Professional Cowboy’s Rodeo Association (PRCA) sought to qualify among the top 15 finishers in each of seven rodeo events: saddle bronc riding, bull riding, bareback riding, calf roping, team roping, steer wrestling and barrel racing. The top 15 in each event will compete for more than $3 million in prize money. Last year over 150,000 people attended the NFR, and more than 13 million viewers tuned in for all 10 rounds of the Finals broadcast on ESPN.

Contributing to the rodeo atmosphere are the Las Vegas casinos, which typically transform themselves into country and western halls: country music is piped into the casinos, cocktail waitresses and other hotel workers don western wear, and top name country talent fills the showrooms. Among the latter are Tanya Tucker (The Orleans), Brooks & Dunn (Las Vegas Hilton), Ricky and the Redstreaks (Stardust), Clint Black (Paris Las Vegas), Lorrie Morgan (The Orleans), Mark Chesnutt and Aaron Tippin (Aladdin), and Chris Le Doux (Silverton).

Enhancing the excitement of the rodeo is the annual Cowboy Christmas Gift Show, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Dec. 6-15 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. More than 400 exhibitors will offer a variety of merchandise including leather products, trucks, Western wear, jewelry and NFR souvenirs. The event also showcases hundreds of Western artists, craftsmen and Western dealers from around the country.