Las Vegas Makes Winning Bet on Professional Sports Teams
NHL, check. NFL, check. WNBA, check.
Are the MLB and the NBA next?
About 5 years ago, the gambling mecca of Las Vegas wasn’t home to any professional sports teams. That’s not to say this wasn’t already a sports town. We’ve had decades of historic boxing matches and the United Fighting Championship (UFC), plus minor league and college sports.
We just hadn’t graduated to the major league.
The absence of any of the four big sports leagues, or Big Four, was due in part to the perceived ethical dilemma of betting on a sports team in one of few states where gambling was legal. But in 2018, the Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal sports betting prohibition; the decision to allow sports betting was deferred to individual states.
Commercial sports betting is now legal in more than 30 U.S. states (including Nevada) and Las Vegas is home to three major teams (with a possible fourth and fifth team on the horizon).
The city’s first major sports franchise, the National Hockey League’s (NHL’s) Vegas Golden Knights, was born in the desert and played its inaugural home game at the T-Mobile Arena on October 10, 2017. Played in the aftermath of the tragic October 1 mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip, the game opened with a touching “Vegas Strong” ceremony to honor the shooting victims; players were escorted onto the ice by first responders like firemen, nurses, and doctors, while survivors dropped the puck.
The Las Vegas Golden Knights made an instant impression with the local community and on the ice, skating into the Stanley Cup Finals in its very first season. While the team has not since replicated this success, subsequent seasons have been solid and exciting, with many ups and downs, and the fans can’t seem to get enough.
The arena is conveniently located just north of Tropicana Boulevard and west of Las Vegas Boulevard on the Strip, at the top of the Park outdoor shopping and dining district, just steps away from New York-New York and Park MGM Las Vegas resorts. Home games continue to be a Vegas-style affair with pre-game music and acts by some of the city’s finest performers.
Tickets to the Vegas Golden Knights average about $125, but hockey fans can also catch professional action for a lot less at a Las Vegas Silver Knights game in Henderson. The minor league team, an affiliate of the Golden Knights, plays at the Dollar Loan Center, a multi-purpose arena. Tickets start at $26.
The same year that the Vegas Golden Knights hit the ice, The National Football League (NFL) voted nearly unanimously to relocate the then Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas. The team was no stranger to moving around, originating in the San Francisco East Bay in 1960, moving south to Los Angeles in 1982, and then back up to Oakland in 1995.
In 2020, Las Vegas opened the $1.9 billion Allegiant Stadium as the home for the Las Vegas Raiders and the Raiders Nation followed (though not for the first season of games, due to the COVID-19 pandemic). The Las Vegas Raiders finally welcomed fans to the stadium on September 13, 2021. In 2024, Allegiant Stadium will host Super Bowl LVIII.
Allegiant Stadium is conveniently located behind Mandalay Bay, west of the Strip, across Interstate-15. Tickets for home games start at $50.
Formerly the Utah Starzz and then the San Antonio Stars, the Las Vegas Aces moved to Sin City in 2018. Part of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), the American professional basketball team plays at the Michelob Ultra Arena, formerly known as the Mandalay Bay Events Center. The arena is located on the west side of the resort-casino campus. Tickets start at $10.
Meanwhile, there are murmurs that a National Basketball Association (NBA) team may be coming to Las Vegas. It’s too early to know for sure, but interest comes from all directions, including Los Angeles Lakers MVP LeBron James, who said he wanted to own an NBA team in Las Vegas on a recent episode of his YouTube talk show, “The Shop.”
Jackie Robinson, a former University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and NBA player, also wants to attract an NBA franchise to Las Vegas. His longtime vision for the All Net Resort and Arena on the north end of the Strip has a projected opening date of 2025, according to the project website.
Las Vegas already hosts the 75-game NBA Summer League in July. The off-season competition brings NBA teams together to try out different summer rosters. The games—typically played by lesser-known players—are carried on the major sports networks.
It’s anyone’s guess if the Oakland Athletics’ search for a new ballpark will bring the major league baseball (MLB) team to Las Vegas. Possibilities include the funding of a new waterfront ballpark in Oakland or leaving California altogether, with A’s officials rumored to be eyeing two different sites for a possible.
In the meantime, April through September, baseball fans flock to see the city’s minor league baseball team, the Las Vegas Aviators of the Pacific Coast League. The Triple-A affiliate of the A’s has reportedly drawn larger crowds at many of this season’s games than the A’s themselves. According to the Aviator’s Facebook page, the July 3 game reached 11,368 fans, which is its eighth sellout of the season and the third-largest crowd in Las Vegas Ballpark history.
Originally known as the Stars and later, the 51s, the Aviators hung up their caps at longtime home Cashman Field in downtown Las Vegas in 2019, sliding into a brand new $150 million Las Vegas Ballpark in the Las Vegas suburb of Summerlin. Games are fun and affordable with tickets as low as $13 and special promotions like $2 beer nights. Food ranges from classic concessions to a Chef’s Table, while the cocktail menu rivals many on the Las Vegas Strip.
The Aviator’s departure from Cashman Field kicked in the door for American professional soccer (or football as pretty much all countries outside the U.S. know it). Watched and enjoyed all over the world, soccer has exploded in popularity in the United States in recent years.
The Las Vegas Lights FC is a Division II league in the United States Soccer Federation (USSF). The team played its first soccer game at Cashman Field in 2018. Initial games were well attended but the field itself needed work. So, in 2019, it was officially transformed from a baseball diamond into a soccer field.
Fans of the USL Championship soccer team continue to enjoy quirky promotions like water balloon fights and hot dog eating contests, as well as meet and greets with the team’s mascot, Dollie, a llama. Cashman Field is in downtown Las Vegas, less than a half-mile from the Neon Museum and the Las Vegas Natural History Museum. Tickets for games start at $15.