Until 2017, Las Vegas did not have one major league sports team, making it one of the largest cities in the US to not have a local sports team in the NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL.
However, by 2020, the city will have two major teams, the Las Vegas Golden Knights of the NHL and the Las Vegas Raiders of the NFL. Meanwhile a new soccer team, with eyes on reaching the MLS launches in 2018 too.
Considering the city has 2 million inhabitants, as much as sports towns like Cleveland and Kansas, what took so long?
Why No Professional Teams In Las Vegas For So Long?
One reason and one reason only. Gambling.
Legally speaking, unlike many places in Europe, gambling is restricted heavily. In fact, only four states currently allow online gambling. However, on the whole, gambling is becoming increasingly accepted in America.
Previous thinking was that if sports teams, players, coaches and staff were working in a city that allowed legal gambling, this might corrupt these individuals. Given that Las Vegas is considered the home of gambling in America, many professional leagues steered clear of the city.
The below quote is quite illuminating to how people within the sports industry in America view “Sin City”.
As per the LA Times, Ike Lawrence Epstein, senior executive vice president and chief operating officer of UFC:
“Las Vegas has reinvented hotels, it has reinvented entertainment. It’s reinvented restaurants, it’s reinvented conventions, it’s reinvented the nightclub industry, it’s reinvented retail. I think the next thing Las Vegas is going to reinvent is sports.”
- Numbers Are On Las Vegas’ Side: It has a population of 2 million, making it quite appealing to new sports teams.
- Tourism Rules: The city attracted a record 42 million in 2016, this level of tourism can boost sports teams more than many other cities in the US.
- Experience: The city has long been the mecca of boxing and MMA, highlighting the city’s ability to host bigtime events in a competent and well executed way. Not many other cities can boast this (such as the disastrous Super Bowl in Dallas in 2011).
- Infrastructure: Due to this experience in hosting such events, the city already has much of the infrastructure needed for a professional sports team, including over 150,000 hotel rooms already in the city.
What Will Look Like Success For Las Vegas’ Sports Teams?
The ultimate goal of Las Vegas’ burgeoning sports play will likely to be to try to host the biggest event of them all, the Super Bowl. While the city will want successful teams winning regularly, the goal of hosting a Super Bowl will be top of its agenda.