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The arrival of the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights launches the city as a sports hub


In February, Las Vegas will host the biggest single-day sporting event in the world - the Super Bowl. This is a big departure from how things used to be. Less than a decade ago, America's professional sports leagues wouldn't touch Vegas due to its gambling industry. Now, the NFL, NHL and WNBA all have teams in the city. Just yesterday, Major League Baseball approved the Oakland A's relocation there. And this weekend, Vegas is hosting the Formula One Grand Prix. So what's behind Sin City's recent streak of sports luck? Las Vegas Review-Journal sports business reporter Mick Akers has a bet.

Let's start off with this weekend's F1 race. How big of a deal is this event for the city?

MICK AKERS: Yeah. You know, it's shaping up to be one of the biggest weekends in Las Vegas history. Obviously long history of hosting major events. This was probably going to be just, you know, the top one there until we get to the Super Bowl here in a few months. So, you know, expecting about 100,000 people or so to populate all of the spectator zones across the strip, and they're projecting over $1 billion in revenue going to be generated, you know, over these next few days. So obviously, it's going to be one of the most major events and weekends in Las Vegas history.

MARTÍNEZ: How excited was the city to land this event?

AKERS: You know, it was a lot of work in the back end. It's been about a couple of years since, you know, some of the rumors started and the Clark County Commission finally, you know, and the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority nailed it down. They got it down right now for a three-year deal right now and then a potential for 10 years with Clark County. So, you know, once they got it, they locked it into a multi-year deal. And, you know, they're kind of, you know, clamoring at the hand right now just kind of waiting for this weekend to kick off here.

MARTÍNEZ: Las Vegas has really grown up sports-wise in the last few years. The NHL's there, the WNBA, the NFL has the Raiders there, and the Oakland A's might be next. Why has Vegas become such a sought-after destination for pro sports teams?

AKERS: You know, it's just always been a dream for the city. You know, the pro sports gambling, you know, it's kept a lot of the leagues away. But, you know, once that became legalized and now you're seeing sports betting kind of spread out across the nation now it made it feasible to have a team here. So NHL came in and then the Raiders came in with NFL and we have WNBA. It was always there. The demand is just - it wasn't possible for a while. So once that door opened, the floodgates open, then, you know, all these teams started coming here. And I would say within the next seven to 10 years, we'll have all four major sports leagues here.

MARTÍNEZ: And that's all it took, right? I mean, that Supreme Court decision in 2018 that legalized sports betting, that was the trigger, so to speak, to just have a flood of professional leagues want to go to Las Vegas. It just seems like why couldn't they do that before?

AKERS: Yeah. Just a lot of concerns about the sports betting angle, obviously. They didn't want people betting on their own teams and doing such. Once that passed in 2018, it seems like there was some backend deals already going on because some of those announcements came out pretty quickly, you know, with the Knights, and then you had the Raiders saying, hey, we might want to look at relocation. But now, you know, ever since then it's just been a major thing.

MARTÍNEZ: How do local residents feel about all this, especially considering that some of their taxes go toward the construction of some of these arenas and ballparks and stadiums?

AKERS: Yeah. I'd say, you know, they're - at first, a lot of them were kind of turned off with that. But then we look at the Raiders deal, it's $750 million in public money that's paid for by a room tax on rooms, mainly on the strip, mainly paid for by tourists. So anyone that comes to town is paying that when, you know, they purchase their hotel room. So for the most part on that one, people look like, hey, you know, it's tax money, but it's not us paying it. So they kind of, you know, looked at that a little different right after they kind of got the full gist of it. With the A's, they're looking at a mix of a tax financing district around the stadium, and then they're going to have some, you know, tax breaks through the state. It's going to total about $380 million in public money for the $1.5 billion stadium they're looking to build out there. So that one's a little bit different. But for the most part, everyone's like, hey, we want all these pro sports and, you know, the more the merrier. So, you know, bring on the A's, and eventually bring on the NBA, as well.

MARTÍNEZ: Mick Akers is a sports business reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Mick, thanks.

AKERS: Hey, thanks a lot.

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