Las Vegas is getting a NHL team, a major accomplishment for a city that has been shunned by the major professional sports leagues up until very recently.
The American Gaming Association, the casino industry’s top lobbying group in Washington D.C., says that the hockey team is “breaking the Las Vegas dam.”
In a statement explaining the need for federal sports betting legislation, AGA CEO Geoff Freeman said that the NHL is “pouring cold water on the argument that regulated sports betting harms the integrity of sports.”
He added that the yet-to-be-named Las Vegas team is also “boosting efforts to legalize sports betting across the country.” Betting on single games is only allowed in Nevada, while Delaware has parlay betting. A 1992 federal law called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act limited sports betting to just a handful of states that chose to be grandfathered in.
New Jersey, home to struggling Atlantic City, has been unsuccessful in court so far in undoing its mistake of choosing not to be one of them. Pennsylvania has taken a more cautious approach by indicating it wants sports books if federal law is changed.
Sports betting in Nevada is at record levels, with the handle in 2016 expected to approach $5 billion. That would be another all-time high. The records are especially noteworthy because Las Vegas is relying less on gambling than ever before.
Freeman said earlier this year that “the next president is going to have that issue of legalizing sports betting on their desk, and I’m confident they’ll make the right decision.”
The commissioner of Major League Baseball recently said that he sees Las Vegas as a “viable” option for an expansion team. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said this spring that he has “evolved a little on gambling.” Those comments come as the Oakland Raiders consider a proposal to move to Sin City. Stadium sites are already under discussion.
“If sports leagues are concerned with the integrity of games, then Las Vegas is the best place for a team to play,” Freeman said earlier this month. “As we’ve seen in Nevada and in Europe, a legal, regulated sports betting market brings much-needed transparency in order to spot suspicious activity. Yet in most of the United States, Americans bet at least $150 billion a year through bookies and illegal, and often offshore, websites.”
According to the AGA, 81 percent of NFL teams (26) play within an hour drive of a brick-and-mortar casino, with half of them being just 11 miles from the nearest casino.
The reason for the leagues softening their anti-gambling positions is thanks in part to two thirds of fans saying they follow teams more closely if they’ve placed a bet. A whopping 70 percent surveyed said they are more likely to watch a game if they’ve put some money on it. Those are powerful statistics from the AGA.
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