Las Vegas Sun

January 16, 2018

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NFL games in city still a long shot

Mayor’s plan must overcome football’s gambling phobia

Beyond the Sun

The city has come close to getting an NBA team, and still might — if only an arena developer can be nailed down to “turn the first shovel,” as the mayor has put it.

But his latest obsession is with football. And it may prove to be a tougher sell than basketball ever was.

Mayor Oscar Goodman has conceded his most recent trial balloon is far-fetched. He wants to persuade the NFL to hold all future Super Bowls and Monday Night Football games at a new stadium at Cashman Center.

Yet it is not impossible, Goodman said. The key is starting a conversation with the NFL, an organization so scared of legalized football betting and its potential for cheating and scandal that historically it has been nothing but antagonistic toward this town.

Not an easy task, because the league knows just how ingrained football betting is here. Last year, bettors wagered nearly $1.2 billion in Nevada sports books on football, of $2.6 billion bet on all sports.

But Vegas boosters argue the NFL has gone overboard in its Sin City phobia.

Just look at the history:

Several years ago, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority wanted to run a “What Happens Here Stays Here” ad during a Super Bowl halftime; the NFL said no. The league has threatened casinos that want to host parties using the “Super Bowl” name.

And in 2005, the league even weighed prohibiting NBC from running promos for its hit show “Las Vegas” during the network’s Sunday Night Football broadcasts.

NFL spokesman Randall Liu declined to comment.

According to the mayor, an agreement with the NFL would bring clear benefits to both the city and the region. New tourists would come just for the games. Others might stay one or two days longer than they otherwise would.

Goodman’s suggestion came a few days after the City Council approved an agreement with the LVCVA to seek new proposals for the 50-acre Cashman Center site. Under the agreement, the city eventually will reclaim the property from the convention authority.

Initial reaction to the mayor’s idea from football fans nationwide hasn’t been, shall we say, strong. Bloggers and sports radio talkers have called it a nonstarter, claiming teams won’t want to give up home field advantage, not to mention the revenue, for Monday night games.

“Sure, why not? It’s not like other cities will want to keep those games anyhow,” wrote South Carolina-based sports talk radio host Heath Cline. “Might as well add the return of Christ and the Beatles reunion concert to the future event bookings for the stadium, too.”

Goodman countered that an arrangement could be worked out to reimburse teams that would lose Monday night home game revenue. He also said Vegas locals quickly would come onboard if the NFL approved the idea. The gaming industry, he said, is already behind it.

But first, a conversation between the city and the NFL has to begin. And that might prove to be the biggest stumbling block, given the league’s demonstrated dislike of all that is Vegas.

Though Goodman believes he is entitled to a meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, a spokesman said he hasn’t formally requested a sit-down.

He recently told interviewers on ESPN Radio 1100-AM he wanted to bury any hatchet that might exist between the league and the city, and seriously talk about the idea.

He also couldn’t resist getting a couple of slaps in.

“The NFL, you know, wouldn’t be the NFL but for the fact that gambling took place,” he said. “And I’ll tell you this: I couldn’t watch a game without having a bet on it.”

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