EDITORS’ NOTE: On the first day of the current NFL meetings in Arizona Monday, league owners voted a nearly unanimous majority (31-1, with Miami casting the lone nay vote) to approve the Oakland Raiders’ prospective move to Las Vegas.
While the move may still take some time, the dynamics surrounding it shouldn’t come to any surprise for BASN readers. Way back in September of 2015, we talked about the possible scenarios being set up.
Monday’s vote was just another chapter along the way. Here’s the article that originally appeared in BASN on September 27, 2015
VEGA$: THE FINAL FRONTIER?
By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
NEW HAVEN, CT (BASN) – We interrupt your regular scheduled Sunday of cold wings, warm beer, and questionable sports to let you know why the powers that be may want you to recite either the FanDuel and or DraftKings commercials by heart.
Just over a month ago while the sports world was still knee deep in deflated footballs and the Little League World Series, the possible long-term future between sports and gambling was taking a very quiet turn.
On August 22nd, two cities moved into the second phase of the process of becoming new franchises in the National Hockey League. One was Quebec City in Canada, the former home of the Quebec Nordiques (now the Colorado Avalanche).
The other was Las Vegas, Nevada.
Yeah, that’s right, Vegas baby!!
According to the website http://www.vegaswantshockey.com, the NHL will continue evaluating the current plan of businessman Bill Foley for a franchise, which could potentially start playing at the new $375 million MGM Resorts International-AEG arena on the Strip by the 2017-18 season.
In fact, Foley says he has more than 13,000 season ticket deposits from local Las Vegas fans.
If that application is considered and he “answers questions” from league officials (double down or hold, I guess), the NHL Board of Governors could potentially vote on Foley’s bid at a special meeting later this week or January.
Now before you begin teaching the lyrics of “Viva Las Vegas” to the kiddies, I’m guessing that there are “some questions” that us sports fans should be asking. One in particular: Is this really about hockey, or is this something else altogether?
While I’m sure that there are plenty of eager and anxious hockey fans in Vegas — as the ticket deposits can attest to — the cynic in me thinks something else is happening. Then again, maybe I’ve watched the movie “Conspiracy Theory” way too many times.
Over the years, the four major professional sports leagues in the U.S. and Canada have always taken a holier than thou attitude regarding sports and gambling. They all say in unison “Yes, we’re aware of betting lines. But we know none of OUR fans gamble. They’re just fans of the sport”.
Apparently, they also believe in the Great Pumpkin and have stock in the New Coke.
Now, this isn’t the first time that one of the leagues have tried to venture into Vegas. Back in 2007, the NBA held its All-Star Game in Vegas. The scuttlebutt was that the league was greasing the wheel in regards to putting a franchise on the Strip.
However, a bad experience by fans coupled with a lukewarm reaction to local community made it an all-around disaster for the league. Not to mention a little (dare I say it) gambling scandal involving one of its referees would effectively put the kibosh on that idea.
Step back even further to 1994. When the Canadian Football League had its brief encounter with expanding into the U.S., the Las Vegas Posse was born. But again, bad attendance and apathy would wind up being the downfall of this team.
Now one would say that given the previous history of pro franchises in Vegas (I didn’t even bother to mention the Las Vegas Outlaws of Vince McMahon’s XFL), why would anyone want to even venture here?
One man’s opinion: a future franchise in Vegas will have absolutely nothing to do with the success and or failure on what that given team does on or off the field. It will have nothing to do with whether the proposed hockey club wins the Stanley Cup, makes the playoffs, and or hosts the All-Star weekend.
It will have everything to do with gambling and or “fantasy sports”. That’s where the role of the newest and most annoying group since Bebe’s Kids hit Fun World comes in — that being the boys and gals from FanDuel and DraftKings.
Unless you’ve been living out of a cave with no cable TV, you probably have either seen or heard the constant bombardment of ads by these two entities ad nauseam since St. Patrick’s Day.
And to me, it’s been no accident or coincidence. Fantasy sports — or as one of my friends calls it “Nerd’s Revenge” — has become a multi-billion dollar business in all of the major sports. Both FanDuel and DraftKings have become the major players in that as well.
They have contracts with several teams and leagues and their impact is being felt throughout the sports world. How much you ask? According to BASN’s Travis Singleton, two NFL stadiums currently have private rooms just for their “fantasy fans” on game day Sundays.
So here’s my theory. You can believe it or not, but here are my two cents.
The NHL — who signed a partnership with DraftKings back in November of 2014 — is being used as the test project for pro sports’ next venture into Vegas. If they succeed, slowly the talk will be “Hey, Vegas is a sports town. They need another franchise here”.
Eventually, the domino effect will reach Major League Baseball. The NBA already has a prominent Summer League presence there so they can follow suit. However, if (and or when) the big, bad NFL makes inroads, it’s game over.
All of a sudden, there will be a much more relaxed attitude towards gambling and sports. Given the prominence of FanDuel and DraftKings, it’s already there. And let’s be honest, “fantasy sports” is still gambling.
It just sounds better when you say you’re checking on your fantasy league status instead of wondering why all of a sudden Eli Manning’s clock management skills are on par with the predictable ending of an S.D. Jones wrestling match.
Isn’t it interesting that as we bring this subject up, a certain banished baseball player had a meeting earlier this week with Commissioner Rob Manfred about reinstatement? Gee, I wonder what he’ll do if he gets to come back to the game?
Someone call Arsenio and ask him to go “Hmmmmmmmmm”…….
UPDATE: The NHL expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights are scheduled to make their debut at the start of the 2017-18 season. The Raiders are scheduled to play at least the 2017 and 2018 seasons in Oakland.