Bought by MGM, WNBA’s San Antonio Stars Are Latest Pro Sports Team Headed to Vegas

Posted on: October 18, 2017, 06:43h. 

Last updated on: October 25, 2017, 07:50h.

The pro sports teams planting their flags in Las Vegas keep on coming. MGM Resorts announced Wednesday that the casino conglomerate bought the San Antonio Stars from the WNBA, and will be moving the team to Las Vegas in time for the 2018 season.

Soon-to-be Las Vegas Stars of the WNBA
MGM Resorts bought the WNBA’s San Antonio Stars, and will move the league cellar dwellers to Las Vegas for the 2018 season. (San Antonio Express-News)

The sale was approved by the WNBA and NBA Board of Governors, but no price was disclosed. The deal to bring the Stars to Las Vegas had been in negotiations for months.

“Las Vegas has been on our radar screen for some time,” WNBA President Lisa Borders told the Associated Press. “We’ve had conversations with the MGM family, executive team. They are bringing live sports to Las Vegas.”

The WNBA season ended Oct. 4 when Minnesota defeated Los Angeles in the fifth game in a best-of-five championship series. San Antonio had the worst record in the league for the third consecutive year.

One of the first moves upon completion of the sale of the Stars to MGM was naming NBA Hall of Famer Bill Laimbeer as head coach and general manager of the new Las Vegas franchise.

“He’ll run the basketball side of the business,” Borders said. “The MGM team and the league will work to staff the business side. The folks that will run business, sales, social, digital, all the functions to run the business.”

The team will play their home games next season at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

From Sports Desert to Sports Mecca

The Stars will be the third major professional sports team to arrive in Sin City in the last two years. The NHL became the first top-level pro sports league to award a franchise in Las Vegas, when they announced in 2016 creation of the Vegas Golden Knights.

In March the NFL’s Oakland Raiders made plans to relocate by 2020 to Las Vegas, after completion of a $1.9 billion stadium near the Strip.

Other sports to find increase their presence include NASCAR, which added a second race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and minor league soccer, with the Las Vegas Lights of the United Soccer League (the level right below Major League Soccer) ready to begin play in 2018.

Las Vegas has long had a minor league baseball team. The Triple-A Las Vegas 51s came to town as the Las Vegas Stars in 1983, and rebranded as the 51s in 2001. The team announced last week plans to move from downtown’s Cashman Field to suburban Downtown Summerlin, where the team will build a new $150 million stadium, next to the Golden Knights new practice facility.

For decades, the stigma associated with gambling kept virtually all major sports leagues out of the area, but that view seems to be changing quickly, transforming Las Vegas from a sports desert to a mecca for professional athletic events.

Some see the San Antonio Stars’ move to Las Vegas as a test run to see if an NBA team might be successful in Las Vegas. MGM CEO Jim Murren expressed interest last year in having a team come and join the Golden Knights as tenants at T-Mobile Arena.

Home Team Betting Advantage

It’s yet to be spelled out publicly what sort of betting restrictions on the new Las Vegas team might be in play at MGM sportsbooks. On the Las Vegas Strip, MGM Resorts owns and operates sportsbooks at Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, Bellagio, Mirage, Aria, and New York-New York.

The NHL did not request any betting ban on its newest expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights. The team has been one of the most popular betting tickets in their hometown.

In September, casino magnate and restaurateur Tilman Fertitta bought the Houston Rockets for a reported $2.2 Billion. His Golden Nugget casino did not allow bets on Tuesday’s NBA season opener, as the Rockets took on the defending champion Golden State Warriors, and has no intention to all season.

Former CEO and current Chairman of Caesars Entertainment Gary Loveman has a minority ownership interest in the Boston Celtics, and thus Caesars properties do not offer wagers on games that involve his team.

Similarly, Silverton casino owner Ed Roski owns pieces of the Los Angeles Lakers, the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, and the NHL’s LA Kings. The Silverton sportsbook does not post odds or accept bets for any of those teams.

The Stars become the second WNBA team with ties to a casino. The Connecticut Sun are owned by the Mohegan Sun casino resort, with the team playing their home games at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.