Las Vegas Leaders Seek to Bring Big Time Professional Sports to Sin City
Las Vegas plans to lure major professional sports franchises to relocate in the city, according to USA Today. Las Vegas has long been shunned by the U.S. professional sports associations, because leagues like the NFL and NBA have wanted to avoid ties to gambling.
Other obstacles exist to keep Las Vegas out of the National Football League, National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball. For instance, Sin City has a smaller population base than most cities which have NFL and NBA teams. The population base is increasing, though, and Vegas’s leaders are starting to gain confidence they will one day lure a team to their city.
MLS Soccer Team
The city started its quest to bring teams to the area with more humble ambitions. Vegas leaders have tried to lure a soccer team from the MLS. If the city council approves a $200 million soccer-only stadium, then it is highly likely the city will be able to lure a team from Major League Soccer.
Carolyn Goodman, the 75-year old mayor of Las Vegas, is campaigning hard to see the sports complex built. Goodman told the USA Today, “We’re the perfect place for people to come and enjoy all the amenities we have, and we’re certainly ready for major league sports. We’ve made so many advances in the medical community and in cultural offerings. Pro sports is the one little piece we haven’t quite gotten the hook around.”
Lois Tarkanian’s Opposition
Goodman’s old friend, Lois Tarkanian, is against the use of public funds to build such venue. She believes such funding should be used for education and infrastructure–not as bait for a sports franchise. To please the 80-year old Tarkanian, the wife of former UNLV coaching legend, Jerry Tarkanian, they city council released a proposal on Wednesday that uses some public funds to build a facility, but meets some of the requests of Lois Tarkanian and her political allies. Since Lois Tarkanian has a vote, these are important concessions.
When Mayor Goodman was asked if she was mad at Tarkanian for her stance, Goodman said, “I’m not mad at her. But I may have to flatten her tires if she doesn’t vote the right way.”
Reasons For and Against
The Las Vegas metropolitan area now has a combined population over 2 million. In most cities, that would be enough people to support sports franchises. Not everyone agrees that Vegas can sustain fan support for a team full-time, because of the way the economy is set up.
Las Vegas’s workers are often employed at the casinos, which are 24/7 gaming destinations. That means roughly 1/3 of the population is working at any given time. One-third of the population is resting at that time, too. That leaves one-third of the population from which to draw customers.
Questions about Fixing Games
Worse for the chances of Las Vegas is the stigma of gambling. Such a stigma hardly keeps away most entertainers, but those people don’t have to worry about public perceptions involving the outcome of their shows. With sporting events, the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and NCAA fear that if fans too closely associate their products with sportsbooks, then the fandom might come to believe the games are fixed.
Baseball has a long history of game-fixing scandals, from Shoeless Joe Jackson to Pete Rose. In 2007-08, the NBA weathered the Tim Donaghy scandal, in which a 13-year referee was found to have fixed NBA games–then accused league officials of doing the same. League offices take hardline stances in such cases, knowing the damage such stories could do to their sports. Having Las Vegas so near to a team’s identity could hurt the brand name.
Limiting Potential Scandal Material
Carl Braunlich, a UNLV professor and consultant to Las Vegas casinos, says gaming is the biggest drawback to franchises locating in the city. Braunlich said, “When it comes to sports in Las Vegas, the elephant in the room is gambling. That will probably always be a potential killer for a sports franchise here. People are afraid of the taint of an accusation of corruption.”
The consultant points out that the National Football League, the league with the most money at stake, is already dealing with major scandals. Braunlich added, “The NFL, for instance, is just horrified at the thought of anything that would make it look less ‘family’ or less ‘quality’ than it is now, even though bookmakers around the world thrive on the NFL and the games that are being played. When it comes to wife-beating or drug-taking or shootings at bars, those are the NFL’s P.R. nightmares. They certainly don’t want to deal with gambling issues, do they?“
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