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Las Vegas Pro Sports: Today the NHL, tomorrow the NFL?

Posted by: Charlie Smith

The NFL – and by extension, people who bet on NFL – will be closely following the NHL’s Las Vegas expansion vote. Or at least that’s the belief of president of MGM Resorts International Bill Hornbuckle. Hornbuckle has been a high-level exec at several casinos for nigh on four decades, but his dream has always been to do for Las Vegas professional sports what Bugsy Siegel did for Las Vegas gambling. According to Bill, “about seven years ago things got serious,” and now he thinks a future in which at least three high level pro teams call Nevada home is no longer a pipe dream. Like a great man once said, “that’s doable.”

Hornbuckle has said that “we are ready,” and they even have a party planned to celebrate the NHL vote – which all signs point to being ‘yes.’ Who “we” and “they” are is not clear, though one could expect to find more than a few football betting fans in the bunch. Of course the vote means squat without the $500 million fee the NHL charges expansion teams, but that’s where another Bill comes in – specifically, West Point graduate and chairman of Fidelity National Financial Bill Foley, whose loose change should be enough to cover the expense. Moreover, the team already has a stadium – the spanking new T-Mobile Arena – and a prospective name – the Black Knights.

But Hornbuckle is not burning daylight. He has already met on various occasions with Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis to talk about moving the team to Las Vegas. The relocation would necessitate the approval from 24 of the NFL’s 32 owners and a stadium. The difficult part, though, would be to raise $1.4 billion in public funding, expected to come mostly from an increase on hotel room taxes. Fortunately, if inexplicably, retired soccer star David Beckham is on board – presumably to persuade investors with his winning smile and rock-hard abs. And the best part is that Vegas would have a built-in base of fans who bet on NFL.

Should the NFL follow suit – and with football betting fans – the NBA most likely would want to get in on the action too. The NBA already holds its summer league in Las Vegas, and teams will play exhibition games at T-Mobile Arena next autumn. NBA commish Adam Silver told Dan Patrick that he’s keeping a close eye on it. Las Vegas is the most potentially lucrative market for major professional sports which remains untapped. However, there are few issues that need straightening out, such as the size of the television market – which geographically close to larger markets in Phoenix and Los Angeles – and how to put butts in seats for three major teams – though Hornbuckle thinks that the 43 millions (which probably includes a fair share of people who bet on NFL) of tourists that visit Vegas each year could do the trick.

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