Will the NFL bet on the Raiders in Las Vegas?
In answering whether the NFL would allow betting in Las Vegas should the Oakland Raiders relocate here, the director of the largest sports book operation on the Strip may have created the town’s new catchphrase.
“You come to Vegas, you take Vegas the way Vegas is,” said MGM Resorts’ Jay Rood, who sets the betting lines at some of its best-known properties, including MGM Grand, Mirage, Mandalay Bay and New York/New York.
Raiders owner Mark Davis has expressed interest in the move and would come armed with $500 million for a new $1-billion-plus stadium, with a promised $150 million from Sands Corp.'s Sheldon Adelson. A $750-million tourism tax could be approved by August, setting the stage for January NFL approval.
Although Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones this week told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram he’s in favor of Las Vegas landing an NFL team because “the entertainment aspect outweighs gambling concerns,” how the NFL views the presence of sports books a few football fields away from the new dome is still an issue.
The NHL is also pondering the placement of an expansion team at the new T-Mobile Arena, between New York/New York and the Monte Carlo.
Would the leagues place a condition that there be no gambling on the teams’ local games in Nevada sports books?
“As much as we want to see a pro franchise, I certainly would not be in favor of taking those games off the board,” said Jay Kornegay, the race and sports book director of the Westgate Superbook. “It’d be sending the wrong message. It’s stating something is wrong with the industry.”
Kornegay noted that past objections led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) about college sports betting in Nevada did not stop the addition of wagering on teams from Nevada Las Vegas and Nevada in 2001. Hotel-casino licensees are confident in their well-regulated industry.
When the NBA asked Nevada books to prohibit betting on the league’s 2007 All-Star game, it cooperated. But Kornegay predicted current NBA Commissioner Adam Silver would now embrace betting on the league’s games.
“Future sports betting, when it spreads across the United States, will be modeled after Nevada,” Rood said. “We’re one of the most highly regulated industries in America. I’d put us up against any banking or Wall Street regulations. That stringent. And I would think the leagues will embrace that. We want the same thing the leagues want: games played with integrity.”
Rood said Nevada bookmakers were pivotal in tipping off authorities in the mid-1990s when two Arizona State basketball players conspired to shave points on four games.
Although a point-shaving subject, Richard “The Fixer” Perry, was photographed in 1989 with three UNLV basketball players sharing a hot tub, no gambling activity was traced to the four men.
“When there is something that looks fishy, the bookmakers are the ones who call the Gaming Control Board and say, ‘This is a little odd, look into it,’ ” Rood said. “We’re the watchdog of the industry, whether we’re appreciated for that or not.”
In a report last year, the American Gaming Assn. estimated $2 billion would be bet on NFL and college football in U.S. sports books last season, with another $93 billion gambled online and/or illegally on the sport.
Though he declined to reveal dollar figures, Kevin Bradley, manager of the online Bovada.lv Sportsbook, said in an email to The Los Angeles Times that NFL betting accounts for 20% to 25% of all sports betting on his site. MGM’s Rood placed the figure at 30% at his properties.
Kornegay said the NFL’s stance on betting on a Las Vegas home team is “not a nonissue, but it’s not a hot topic. It’s not a cover story. I’m sure it’s going to come up. The officials and leagues understand it more now and I’m confident we’ll move forward without any issues.
“The NFL will see the regulations. Look, the NFL is pushing more games in England — three games a year. They take wagers on those games. My friends went to the game at Wembley Stadium, walked across the street to bet the game, then walked back into the game. There’s mobile gaming. ... This is certainly going to come up and be discussed, but I don’t think it’s a big hurdle and I think we can convince the league — be it the NFL or NHL — that there’s no harm in taking wagers on teams that call Vegas their home.”
Rood said that NFL betting represents “less than 1/10th of 1% of the entire drop” from the blackjack, craps, roulette tables and other games at MGM properties, adding a greater NFL concern about Las Vegas might be from an owner or general manager regarding the lure of the nightlife on young, rich athletes.
“You can go to a different club every night for the entire month,” he said.
A Raiders move would bolster bets on the silver-and-black, as happened with the shift of the Pac-12 Conference men’s basketball tournament from Staples Center to Las Vegas and the NASCAR stop in Las Vegas, marked by about a 20% increase in action from similar out-of-town events, according to Rood.
Bovada’s Bradley said the Raiders have dropped from 66-1 odds to win the Super Bowl to 25-1, calling the team “a massive liability for the book” this season. He said a relocation would have “little to no effect” on betting the team generates online.
Rood said Raiders fans, especially in northern Nevada, strike hard when the team is competitive, on a similar level to the usually popular Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots and the Cowboys.
“They have a strong fan base, but they don’t have a foolish fan base,” Rood said. “When there’s a spot for support, they take it.”
Unlike Kornegay, Rood contends an NFL team’s arrival would be a boon to the sports books.
“No doubt about that,” Rood said. “You’ll have people going to the games, tourists from out of town going — all of them wanting to bet.”
Said Kornegay: “The climate has changed dramatically, and our society has accepted it more than at any other time. That dark cloud over sports gambling is still there, but as people work to understand it, they’re not so much against it.
“They understand most fixed games happen underground. You don’t ask about unusual betting at your street corner.”
Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire
Get our high school sports newsletter
Prep Rally is devoted to the SoCal high school sports experience, bringing you scores, stories and a behind-the-scenes look at what makes prep sports so popular.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.