Vegas Rolls the Dice and Comes Up a Winner

Written by:
Guest
Published on:
Nov/14/2017

LAS VEGAS — This was a sight no self-respecting bookie in this gambling town would have ever laid odds on seeing.

There was Roger Goodell, praising Las Vegas with the lights of the glittering Strip shining brightly behind him. In the audience were a trio of NFL owners (though not Jerry Jones) who had to be just a little envious about the rich possibilities that await Mark Davis and his Raiders.

There was no talk about the evils of sports betting, no warnings about players finding their way into casinos. The city they had snubbed for so many years was now one of their own, with the sanctimonious hypocrisy of the past conveniently abandoned before the first ceremonial shovels of dirt were turned.

The Raiders won't play here until the 2020 season at the earliest, but Monday night's official groundbreaking for a $1.9 billion stadium made it seem like they were already home. Great Raiders of the past like Jim Plunkett and Howie Long were on hand for the turnover, and there was hardly a mention of Oakland the entire night.

Amazing what $750 million can do.

That, as it turns out, is the price of admission to the most exclusive club in American sports. A bit pricey, yes, but not a problem in a city that laid off the bet on tourists, who will pick up the tab in increased room taxes.

What began 20 months ago as little more than a concept — a pipe dream, perhaps — is suddenly very real. There are still issues that remain, including some crucial agreements for the new stadium, but no one in attendance at the splashy groundbreaking was in any mood to hear about them.

Indeed, Las Vegas is on the kind of roll with major league sports that a craps player at Caesars Palace could only dream of.

Last month the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights became the first major professional franchise to call the city home, and so far they have been a smashing success on the ice and in the stands. The NBA practically spends its summers here, and the biggest casino operator in town is looking to eventually lure a franchise to the city. MGM Resorts has already bought a WNBA team that will begin play here next year, and the same arena used by the Golden Knights figures to be a perfect fit for an NBA team.

Las Vegas is the home of UFC and almost every big boxing match. NASCAR will hold not just one, but two, of its Sprint Cup races in the city next year, and five different college conferences bring teams to town for their annual basketball tournaments.

But it's the NFL that changes everything, beginning in 2020 when the new stadium will be finished and fans will be able to look out large windows in the north end zone to see the hotels on the Strip. They'll also be able to put some money on the games at nearby casinos, then stroll over to catch the action.

Goodell sounded almost giddy at the groundbreaking about the NFL coming to Las Vegas. He wielded one of the shovels with the Raiders logo for the ceremonial groundbreaking, and said he was "proud to be here with you."

To the still disbelieving it was living proof that the Raiders are actually coming.

Once again, Las Vegas rolled the dice and somehow came up a winner.

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