Las Vegas is going all-in on professional sports.
The National Hockey League (NHL) is expanding its league to Vegas for the start of the 2017 season, and owners in the National Football League (NFL) are likely going to be forced to soon vote on whether to approve Mark Davis’ wishes to relocate the Oakland Raiders to Nevada.
And now, MGM boss Jim Murren is targeting the National Basketball Association (NBA). Murren, whose MGM Resorts owns a 50 percent stake in the T-Mobile Arena, home to the forthcoming NHL team, says he wants the venue to play home to an NBA franchise.
Murren made his wishes known during a recent interview with Nevada Public Radio. The MGM executive said he would prefer to relocate a current NBA team to Las Vegas, instead of being granted an expansion team.
But Murren wouldn’t be content with just the NHL, NFL, and NBA. He also wants soccer.
“Imagine the thought of having a professional hockey team, a professional football team, a professional soccer team, probably a professional basketball team. I’m working on that,” Murren explained.
Murren is the latest casino boss trying to get dealt into the pro sports game.
Billionaire Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson is the man behind the NFL plan with Davis. Worth some $30 billion, Adelson is ready to spend $650 million of his own money to help build a $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat domed football stadium just steps from the Strip.
Earlier this month, the Nevada Legislature approved raising the hotel occupancy tax by 0.88 percent in Clark County to generate $750 million in capital for the stadium. Governor Brian Sandoval (R) quickly signed the measure into law.
Not all locals are on-board. Critics say the city shouldn’t be helping fund a billionaire’s “legacy project,” and that three-quarters of a billion dollars could be spent in more noble ways.
Murren’s notion to bring basketball to Vegas would seemingly be an easier endeavor.
The T-Mobile Arena opened in April and can seat 18,000 for basketball. However, at that capacity, the Vegas NBA team would have the fourth-smallest venue in the league.
Gambling Still King
Las Vegas is certainly not taking a page out of Atlantic City’s playbook when it comes to assuring its own economic stability. Many believe the East Coast gambling town failed to adapt to changing economic factors, most specifically casino competition in neighboring states.
Gambling revenue has been a rollercoaster ride in Las Vegas since the US Great Recession began in mid-2007 with the housing bubble crisis.
Stability has slowly returned, and casinos are prepping for the future.
In addition to trying to make the desert a pro sports haven, resorts are marketing toward the millennials by offering new gaming formats, most notably skill-based video terminals.
As older generations retire from traditional slot machines, casinos need to attract a new wave of tourists. Sports will certainly aid in that mission.
But gambling is still the city’s bread and butter. While it might seem as if Vegas bigwigs are transitioning into other industries, their mission remains all about getting people onto the casino floor.