When, in late July, the NBA and WNBA announced a gambling partnership with MGM Resorts International, it turned quite a few heads. NBA commish Adam Silver — an outspoken proponent of legalized gambling — has taken the reigns in pro sports’ journey into legalized sports betting. Could this sudden openness to gambling be a precursor to a potential NBA team here in Las Vegas? Quite possibly.
The gambling partnership with the NBA, WNBA and MGM Resorts International is the first partnership of its kind with a major sports league in the United States. The NBA and WNBA will provide MGM with official NBA/WNBA data for its betting platform. It will also work with the league, which has had its gambling issues in the past (see Tim Donaghy), to help prevent fraud and game-fixing. MGM will also have the right to use NBA and WNBA trademarks and logos in coordinated marketing plans with each league.
“Collaboration will result in the best possible gaming and entertainment experience for consumers through the use of accurate, real-time N.B.A. and W.N.B.A. data, and our collective efforts to maintain and enhance the integrity of our games,” Silver said in a statement.
MGM Resorts International was pleased with the gambling partnership.
“Integrating the NBA’s assets and having official NBA data showcased across the MGM Resorts platforms will provide us with a distinct advantage and instill more confidence in knowing that our data is directly from the NBA,” MGM chief executive Jim Murren told the New York Times last week.
The gambling partnership is the expected next step in the process of integrating legalized gambling into the sports culture of the United States after decades of major sports leagues distancing their organizations from official association with gambling. In July, the Supreme Court struck down the federal law banning sports betting in most states. The move has paved the way for major changes in how the sports industry can do business in the U.S.
With that said, MGM Resorts International owns the Las Vegas Aces, so it’s more than likely MGM has its sights set on partnering its women’s team with a men’s team. MGM is also a majority stake owner in the T-Mobile Arena, and its CEO made some interesting comments at its most recent investor meeting in May.
“I would expect that Las Vegas will have an NBA team within the next five years, if not sooner. That team would likely play at T-Mobile (Arena).”
—MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren
This publication reported back in June about a few rumors from reputable sources here in town insistent the Los Angeles Clippers would be making a move to Las Vegas sooner, than later. Much of it had to do with this source’s clientele explicitly telling them it was coming. With a lawsuit bogging down Clippers owner Steve Ballmer’s potential stadium plans in Inglewood, Calif., and retired United States Senator Barbara Boxer joining the fight against a stadium in that location, Las Vegas may again reap the benefits of political infighting in California.
Sloppy seconds? Not so much
The Clippers have been third fiddle in L.A. for far too long. The team gets third priority in choosing calendar dates behind the LeBron James-led Lakers and the Golden Knights chief rival, the Los Angeles Kings. This poses a logistical nightmare for the team and puts the Clippers at a disadvantage compared to its inter-city rival.
While Seattle fans are clinging to hope the NBA will return the SuperSonics to Grunge City, U.S.A, many are looking at the success the Golden Knights had in their first season, as well as the Las Vegas Aces’ strong showing, when citing Vegas as a frontrunner for a new NBA franchise.
WNBA games on ESPN2 have seen a 39-percent improvement from last year, the best start for the league since 2013. With an additional 36-percent increase in ratings overall, superfans like The Ringers’ Shea Serrano believe it has everything to do with the emergence of the Aces and the Las Vegas pro sports scene.
Major League Baseball has already announced its intent to bring a team to Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Raiders move to Sin City in 2020 (possibly as early as 2019), leaving the NBA as the lone major pro sports organization without a Las Vegas presence.
Translation: It’s only a matter of time. The NBA has cleared a path to move to Vegas sooner, not later, and — especially if this Inglewood stadium issue continues to put the Clippers in a holding pattern — Las Vegas may sneak in and pilfer the “Clip Show” like it did the Oakland Raiders.
No pro sports team should have to share its arena with another pro sports team in the same league, let alone the same division and conference. It’s a major reason why the Clippers are thought of as the Lakers’ weak little brother. The Clippers can move into the spotlight here in Vegas, keep the fan base (which is only four hours down the road) and move right into T-Mobile Arena, which has an excellent relationship with its partner, MGM Resorts International.
Is the NBA coming the Vegas any time soon? My source says “bet on it.” My gut says, as long as political heavyweights fight the new Inglewood stadium, we inch ever so closer to our own NBA team here in Sin City. If not the Clippers, maybe it’ll be the New Orleans Pelicans or the Orlando Magic. Neither seem like a fit, while the Clippers are regional and have a strong west coast fan base.
The NBA/MGM gambling partnership has cleared open a path to another pro sports team in Vegas. Perhaps, in its arrogance in landing LeBron and his hype, the Lakers underestimate the power of Las Vegas. Anyone with a brain can see how the Clippers vs Lakers would make for a stellar rivalry within the NBA Pacific Division.
It could be epic…like a “lightsaber duel between a young Anakin Skywalker vs sort-of-young Obi-Wan Kenobi” kind of epic.