14 February 2007

NBA softens stance on Vegas

David Stern may be getting ready to open the Pandora's Box that is Las Vegas. reports that the NBA commissioner and Sin City mayor Oscar Goodman may be close to bridging a philosophical gap that kept a NBA franchise out of the city. Stern, who previously has refused to buckle on his stance to never place a team in Vegas unless the city's casinos take NBA games off the books, appears open to a compromise.

Such a compromise could involve two things:
  • Betting for the Vegas team's games would be prohibited (a.k.a. "UNLV rule'). This is a major concession by Stern, one that could be an admission of how outdated the pro sports leagues' thinking is about gambling and especially Vegas. There's no way that any league will win this battle with the gaming industry, not even the NFL. The UNLV rule dictated that all state university football and basketball games (Nevada and UNLV) be taken off area sports books.
  • The majority of owners would have to approve of having a team in Vegas. While the NBA doesn't have antitrust protection over its franchises like MLB, moves generally aren't done without the consent of the owners' fraternity and the commish. Recognizing the dollar signs and the lackluster performance of the newer Southern franchises (New Orleans, Memphis), having a NBA franchise in Vegas would certainly boost league revenues over most other mid-markets, including Sacramento. The difference this time is that Stern revealed that he wouldn't "stand in the owners' way" if a Vegas team was what they really wanted.
Speaking of Sactown, the Maloofs have preemptively announced that they're committed to staying in Sacramento, even though they're pulling out all the stops as hosts for All Star Weekend and have no Sactown arena deal in sight.

Stern qualified his statement by saying that the two sides aren't close to coming to an agreement, a perfectly diplomatic thing to say if you don't want to piss off existing constituent cities. As the prospect of a NBA team looms closer, the question becomes: Will it be an expansion team or a relocation? Expansion would net a nice franchise fee ($500 million), but it would also further dilute an already questionable talent pool. Relocation might make the most sense considering the dearth of cities willing to pay for new arenas (see Seattle, Sacramento), but obviously the franchise fee wouldn't be there.

Las Vegas Kings? Sounds fitting for the hyperbole-driven city.


Anonymous said...

Field of Schemes states that a Vegas investor group is interested in buying the Memphis Grizzlies, with the obvious intent of moving the team to Sin City. Any truth to this report? And if the Sac Kings don't get a downtown arena, where in the hell would they go? There's this cool looking arena located on W. Santa Clara Street/San Jose that could use some pro hoops...and please don't give us "the Warriors are the Bay Area's team" crap either!

Marine Layer said...

I can't comment on the veracity of Robin Leach's reportage, but the Grizzlies are pretty much stuck in Memphis for a while thanks to their lease at FedEx Forum. If some group wants to buy the team and buy out that lease (if the city of Memphis is willing to allow it), more power to them. All told, it could be cheaper than an expansion franchise fee.

No NBA team is going to move here just because HP Pavilion is available. A sweetheart deal has to be part of it, and SVS+E would have to buy a team to make it happen. Even if that were done, David Stern would have to feel that the move would be in the best interest of the league - which it wouldn't. The South Bay will be oversaturated with pro sports if the A's, 49ers, and Quakes deals go through. A team wants a market to itself when possible. Sharing generally sucks.

Anonymous said...

First of all, MLS doesn't count as a major league sport. Second, if the South Bay hypothetically housed the "Big 4" (Niners, A's, Sharks, NBA), how does that equate to "oversaturation," being that the San Jose/South Bay region is merely the southern end of a 7+ million resident metropolis? The Denver metro area has a much smaller population than the greater Bay Area, yet appears to house the "Big 4" quite comfortably (the Rockies, Broncos, Nuggets, and Avalanche apparently don't mind "sharing").

Marine Layer said...

Santa Clara County has 1.8 million residents. Include the southern portions of San Mateo County and Alameda County and we're up to 2.5 million. Let's not fool ourselves. This area is maxed out with 6 teams as it is. Once the area's teams all have modern facilities there will be intense competition for premium revenue. FYI, Denver is considered oversaturated as well - and attendance/revenue for Rockies and Nuggets reflects that (yes, they're also historically bad).

Jeff P said...

A lot of the thinking concerning sporting events and gambling is severely outdated. In a high tech world with so many eyes upon them, not to mention the salaries they are making these days, who could really concieve of a team engaging in a conspiracy to throw games? You would have to be incredibly stupid to even think you could get away with it. It's ironic when you think about it. The Black Sox were not banned for gambling per se, they were banned for associating with "gamblers" and throwing games. Wtih todays vidoe eyes upon us 24/7, there is no chance of getting away with rigging games. In fact, I would argue that the NCAA's fervent desire to keep college kids poor and broke does more to promt illicit and illegal behavior than any casino.