League sources said that it was a done deal for a brand spankin’ new expansion franchise to begin playing at the brand spankin’ new T-Mobile Arena nestled in behind the Monte Carlo.
The lead story on SportsBIT today is all about the NHL’s expected move to Las Vegas. League sources basically said that it was a done deal for a brand spankin’ new expansion franchise to begin playing at the brand spankin’ new T-Mobile Arena nestled in behind the Monte Carlo, on the Las Vegas Strip.
When it comes to HUGE sports betting stories over the past decade, this ranks near the top, right there with the rise (and subsequent fall) of fantasy sports betting from the likes of Fan Duel and Draft Kings. The other top betting story since the Tim Donaghy scandal and the UIGEA that was slipped into a ‘must pass’ Port Security bill in 2006 that ended the ‘easy funding’ era of offshore sportsbooks was NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s public reversal of the NBA’s anti-gambling position, the first major sports league in the US to call for legalization and regulation. The NHL’s expected expansion to Vegas is on par with all of those ‘huge news’ stories.
The biggest thing about the announcement was how commonplace it seemed; just another expansion franchise in another city for a league that has done a fair bit of expansion over the last 30 years. There was no public outcry, no real opposition to the announcement. Let’s not forget that as recently as 2012 – only four years ago – NHL commissioner Gary Bettman filed court documents in New Jersey that stated legalized sports betting in the Garden State would cause ‘irreparable harm’ to the league. Now, the league appears to be on board with Vegas offering betting lines on games that will be played just a short walk from the nearest sportsbook!
That, folks, is evidence of a legitimate paradigm shift in the way the US is viewing sports betting. It’s also clear evidence that the pro sports leagues are full of shit when they file court briefings in the Jersey legalization case about how gambling hurts their leagues. It doesn’t. In fact, bettors are more engaged than casual viewers, watching more intently and for longer periods of time than non-bettors. The leagues know that they need the gamblers to keep TV ratings at record highs. The NHL’s move to Vegas is perhaps the beginning of the end of this knee-jerk opposition to the expansion of sports betting.
Here’s the quote from Jay Rood, the VP of Race & Sports at MGM Grand: “I would expect to book the (NHL) games. Obviously, MGM and T-Mobile will be big players with (the expansion team). I’m excited to see how the betting action will be on games…..If a league is willing to go in the direction of having a team in Las Vegas, that may indicate some changing views on sports betting.”
There are certainly questions about the long term viability of an NHL franchise in Vegas. Caesar’s is in bankruptcy right now; MGM might not be far behind. Magnates Steve Wynn (Wynn Casino and Encore) and Sheldon Adelson (Venetian and Palazzo) have both been pummeled by the declining revenues in Macau since Chinese currency crackdowns came into play. The casino industry in Vegas isn’t truly healthy and that does spark some concerns about whether the NHL will last here long term. That being said, in the short term, this is a HUGE victory for sports bettors, worthy of celebration!
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