A large number of hotel rooms and meeting facilities located near convention hall, restaurants run by America’s top chefs and no hurricanes are a few of the reasons why the city appeals to GOP convention organizers.
But gambling, risqué entertainment, and adults-only hotel pool parties are also a staple of Vegas hospitality. And despite the city's hard sell, it's unclear if the GOP's culturally conservative base is willing to hold their convention there.
Las Vegas must overcome its stigma for vice and excess in a competition that includes more staid communities. Representatives from Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Phoenix and Las Vegas showed up at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington in early February to attend “interested cities day.”
Although the event is more than two years away, the RNC’s site selection process is also underway, with official bids to host the gathering due by Feb. 26.
Some warn the RNC will go a different direction due to worries that GOP convention delegates enjoying Vegas' distractions could generate negative headlines and overshadow the event and the party's nominee. Adding to GOP concerns, Las Vegas is heavily unionized, making protests or disruptions to the GOP message possible.
Nevada Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, one of the officials leading Las Vegas' campaign to land the 2016 convention, dismissed those anxieties.
The Republican noted that GOP conventions have been held in New Orleans and Tampa, Fla., cities known for their high concentration of strip clubs and nighttime entertainment. As for Vegas' many casinos, Krolicki said gambling is already common in much of the country.
“Gaming is something that has proliferated around the country, so unless you’re from Utah or Hawaii, you should have no problems with gaming,” Krolicki told the Washington Examiner.
“I think it’s an issue we need to address, but if you’re in New Orleans walking down Bourbon Street, that’s an issue they had to deal with, and it’s far more in-your-face,” he added.
Las Vegas is built to seamlessly host several major conventions simultaneously, and Krolicki said that the city’s logistical advantage over other locations is “profoundly compelling.”
The 2016 convention would be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, according to the official bid that “Las Vegas 2016” — the committee formed to bring the event to Nevada — will submit to the RNC. And there are enough hotel rooms within one mile of the convention center to house the 50,000 people who attended the 2012 Republican convention in Tampa.
Krolicki cited other statistics that favor Las Vegas' bid: 150,000 hotel rooms in the city, 15,000 luxury suites and its experience with managing conventions. The city hosts 21,000 conventions and welcomes 40 million visitors annually. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau, nearly 5 million came to town in 2012 to attend a convention.
Not since the 2004 GOP convention in New York City have the major parties' nominating events been held in cities easily capable of handling the crowds they generate. In 2008, the Democratic and Republican conventions were held in well-regarded cities — Denver and St. Paul, Minn., respectively. But neither had enough hotel rooms or meeting space to accommodate the tens of thousands of people that flocked to each.
Consequently, thousands who attended those conventions were forced to book hotel rooms several miles and often hours-long bus rides away from the convention hall. Attendees experienced the same problems at the 2012 Democratic convention in Charlotte and Republican convention in Tampa.
Las Vegas is focusing its bid on the city’s unique logistical advantages, but is also making a strong effort to knock down Republican committee members concerns that “Sin City” would make an inappropriate host.
“Some have criticized Las Vegas as a location,” Jim Brulte, the California GOP chairman, wrote in a January email to committee members. “I can only reply that I am a conservative Christian and my denomination has its international conventions in Las Vegas from time to time.
“Why? ... Because putting on conventions is what Las Vegas does every week of every year,” he said.