Taking Stakes On Sports

Officials in Las Vegas are vying for a professional sports franchise and have even offered to build a stadium for the lucky team that signs on with the City of Sin.

Mayor Oscar Goodman has taken the matter to heart, and recently hinted that talks might already be under way, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"This is going to be the year that we are going to be involved with serious discussions about having a professional sports team locate in Las Vegas," Goodman said.

Goodman has reportedly offered to build a "neutral site" for the National Football League that could permanently house Monday and Thursday night games.

"Sort of like how it was for the mob – you know Las Vegas was a neutral city," he told the Times.

But Goodman may find that inking a team deal with the NFL could prove to be difficult. The organization has taken a firm stance against sports gambling, and relations between the league and many of the city’s casino operators are strained because of it.

In fact, during the week of the Super Bowl, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was quoted saying the league will continue to keep "a very strong line between the NFL and sports gambling," the paper said.

That doesn’t mean the city couldn’t tie down another sports franchise. Vegas has been mentioned as a possible home for the Pittsburgh Penguins. And most recently, the city hosted the NBA All-Star game – the first time a non-NBA city has done so.

The game, which took place at Thomas & Mack Center at the University of Nevada, was a complete sellout.

Regular arena suite holders were apparently given the option to swap their suites for regular seats to the game, which capped at nearly 2,500 tickets for the All-Star weekend practice sessions, games and skill challenges.

Despite the success of the weekend, NBA officials told the Times that the city would have to make a few concessions to be considered for a team deal.

"If they’ll take the NBA off the board – that is, eliminate betting on league games – we would consider Las Vegas for an NBA franchise," Commissioner David Stern said.

While the possibility of a franchise looks to be on the horizon, Goodman’s offers to build a venue for that team with public money may be a hard sell in a city where casino operators could view the construction of another venue as a threat to their livelihood.

MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman told the Times that Vegas is already a saturated market, with plenty of entertainment options.

"It makes no sense to us to take the tax dollars we’re creating and build another competitor down the street," he said.