Yet while Las Vegas passionately loves the NFL in general and this event in particular, the football league has little public affection for the gambling mecca whose sports-book directors set widely followed betting lines and, many believe, make the game interesting to viewers whose hometown teams have long since been eliminated.
The NFL, singularly among pro sports organizations, takes a strikingly hard line against any associations with Las Vegas or Nevada, the only U.S. state where sports betting is legal and regulated. The NHL and Major League Baseball have long flirted with locating Vegas franchises. And the Palms Casino-Resort is owned by the same family that controls the NBA's Sacramento Kings.
"Simply put, gambling and sports do not mix, and we are committed to keeping gambling away from our game," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told AOL News. "Sports gambling threatens the integrity of our game."
Meanwhile, the Super Bowl is the single biggest wagering event of the year in Nevada, with $82 million bet on 2010's championship, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board.
And this year, as many as 300,000 tourists will fill up the rooms around Vegas this weekend. Sure, there's no way to know how many are just visiting to get married by Elvis, but the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is fairly certain the Super Bowl is the draw.
"Realistically, if you took any sane exec at the NFL aside and asked them when they couldn't be quoted if they thought gambling is good for the game, they would say it is," said Anthony Curtis, publisher of the popular Las Vegas Advisor tourist newsletter. "This is a public stance they take because they can. It seems like the right thing to do, and what they say won't stop it."
The NFL is so serious about this distance that the brass at CBS earned a stiff talking-to last year after images of characters from "Yo Gabba Gabba!" were seen entering and exiting the Monte Carlo Hotel-Casino and cruising down the Strip in a Kia car commercial. It wasn't an ad for Vegas, but it showed Vegas imagery that violated an NFL rule prohibiting "ads for specific hotels, casinos and other institutions that house gambling," per the league's policy, which also prohibits showing even footage of the Strip.
"We addressed the (Kia) issue with CBS," McCarthy said. "It should not have been in the spot."
In past years, Las Vegas tried an end-run by buying TV spots in regional markets instead of nationally during the Super Bowl to promote the destination, but the NFL has cracked down on that, too.
"This is the first time in the last 10 years that we have not been approached by any of the broadcast members for Super Bowl advertising, and we are not actively looking to purchase any Super Bowl ads," said Rob Dondero, vice president of R&R Partners, which handles Vegas' destination advertising. "We did sneak in that way for a few years, but the NFL found out. The affiliates are all aware now, I think."
Dondero said the firm has been approached in recent years by ad sellers in Phoenix and San Diego, among others, looking to see if Las Vegas might advertise on billboard space in NFL arenas. He has to inform the solicitors of the NFL's prohibition, and he anticipates an internal struggle between stadium owners and the NFL over the ban as some team owners and TV stations press for new ways to raise revenue.
For now, though, the ratings from NFL games make the broadcast networks -- Fox airs
the game this year -- eager to oblige the league's rules. When NBC landed "Sunday Night Football" in 2006, one of the network's few prime-time hits was a soap called "Las Vegas," which aired on Monday nights. The NFL barred NBC from promoting the show during the Sunday games, so NBC moved the drama to Fridays, where it sputtered to its demise the following season.
That's not to say Vegas hasn't taken advantage of the peculiar situation. R&R Partners intentionally submitted the first ads in the now-famous "What Happens Here Stays Here" campaign for the Super Bowl in 2003 knowing they'd be rejected. Then the firm went to the media to decry the exclusion. Massive media coverage that resulted in millions of dollars in free advertising for the destination and the slogan.
All of this seems absurd to Wynn Las Vegas odds maker Johnny Avello. He argues that the legal, regulated sports-book industry of Nevada is an important check on illicit activities that might occur in the illegal bookmaking world. If there's some strange betting activity reflecting some sort of corruption, the Vegas bookies spot it first and can report it to authorities, unlike illegal bookmakers, he said.
"They want to keep arm's length form Nevada but the reality is, if it wasn't for gambling on those games -- and Nevada is a very small piece because as we know there's illegal gambling everywhere -- their viewership would drop 40 percent," Avello said.
"The Super Bowl has become an unofficial American holiday, bringing people together to watch a great game with family and friends," he said.
And yet, Curtis said, even NFL announcers refer to the betting line to make games that aren't close more exciting. "Everybody's on board with the fact that it's part of the game," he said.
The Vegas line, by the way, predicts the Green Bay Packers over the Pittsburgh Steelers by a field goal.