When people think of Las Vegas, they usually picture massive casinos, enticing slot machines and skyscraping hotels. But Sin City’s image may change soon. With the addition of the NHL’s new expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights, and the potential of an NFL franchise arriving in the future, it’s fair to say that Las Vegas could become America’s new sports city.
Excitement for the Golden Knights’ inaugural season has started to spread despite their first game being around 11 months away. Following the NHL’s June 22 announcement that Las Vegas won the expansion bid, the Golden Knights sold over 14,000 season tickets inside their future home, T-Mobile Arena, which seats 17,500 fans. Two weeks ago, the team revealed its mascot and logo, giving the city a sports brand it can market to the rest of the world.
Why do professional leagues want to start teams in Las Vegas?
The obvious answer is that Las Vegas is one of the top-30 most populated cities in the United States. With over 610,000 people living in the city, the population has nearly doubled since 1992. It certainly has a large enough market for sports consumption.
Tourism is also a key component of the city’s appeal to professional leagues. In 2011, the Las Vegas Strip was the fourth most-visited attraction in the United States, accumulating 29.5-million visitors. Since then, the city’s tourism numbers have continued to improve. In 2015, a Las Vegas tourism record was set as 42-million people visited the city before New Year’s Eve.
While population and tourism continue to skyrocket, Las Vegas will always be known for one unique aspect: gambling. Now that there is a prominent movement to legalize betting on professional games, the city is no longer repelling leagues and teams because of gambling. One of the main leaders pushing for the legalization of gambling in sports is NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
“It’s good for business, I don’t want to hide from that,” Silver said in an interview on the Boomer & Carton show. “We all know as fans, if you have even, like, a gentleman’s bet or a $5 bet with your friend on a game, all of a sudden you’re a lot more interested.”
Legalizing sports betting bodes well for the city, which, according to the University of Las Vegas, netted over $5 billion from gambling in 2013. With the increase in popularity among online fantasy sports, it also wouldn’t be surprising to see sports betting allowed in the near future.
Imagine how much revenue the city would generate on fantasy sports users alone. Currently, 57.4 million users are participating while players that are ages 18 and over, on average, are spending $556 per year on league-related dues. With professional teams moving to Las Vegas to enhance its sports culture, through just the popularity of gambling, the city’s wealth would increase exponentially.
Sports betting is an added attraction for fans in what is already nicknamed “The Gambling Capital of the World.” This could contribute to Las Vegas morphing into a prominent, large-market sports city such as New York, Los Angeles or Chicago. The Vegas Golden Knights will launch Vegas sports culture when they take the ice at T-Mobile Arena next year. An NFL team may also come along soon to share the spotlight.
The Oakland Raiders just announced that they are considering a move to Las Vegas. The city just approved a $750-million contribution to the approximately $2-billion domed stadium. Now, the Raiders will await approval from the NFL. In the meantime, Raiders owner Mark Davis remains committed to moving the team.
“Las Vegas has already done what it is supposed to do, and we have to bring it up to the National Football League and get permission to move to Las Vegas,” Davis said to NFL owners during the league’s fall meetings in October.
As excitement builds within Las Vegas, so does anticipation among the rest of the sports world. With the NBA having also expressed interest in moving to the city, Las Vegas may be hosting the Stanley Cup, Vince Lombardi Trophy and Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy sooner than we expect.