weather icon Clear

NHL expansion to Las Vegas signals gaming now mainstream, official says

Having the NHL poised to expand to Las Vegas sends a strong signal that the gaming industry has gone mainstream, the president and CEO of the American Gaming Association said on Wednesday, adding that the concerns about sports betting are “antiquated.”

“Somebody had to break the dam here and be the first to come into this market,” Geoff Freeman said in a conference call with reporters. “I hope it gives others the permission to feel that they can do the same. But at the same time, it’s up to each of these leagues to determine if the market meets their needs.”

Sources confined to the Review-Journal Tuesday that NHL’s executive committee has recommended the league expand to Las Vegas. The NHL Board of Governors will meet at Encore in Las Vegas on June 22 and hold a final vote, which is expected to pass, in bringing an NHL franchise to Las Vegas.

But while sports betting is legal in Nevada, the NHL will have to decide how they want to address the issue, he said.

“We will be pretty clear that whether it’s the NHL, NFL, NCAA — illegal sports betting is taking place and it’s taking place to the tune of tens of billions, maybe hundreds of billions, of dollars,” he said. “If you want to ensure the integrity of sports you are more likely to do that with a regulated and transparent marketplace.”

A 2016 AGA poll found that 67 percent of Super Bowl viewers say they’re more likely to watch a game if they bet on it. Over half of fans say betting makes the game more enjoyable (53 percent) and makes them follow teams and players more closely (55 percent).

The AGA will work with law enforcement, leagues and players to exert pressure on Congress to legalize sports betting nationwide.

“This issue (sports betting) will be on the desk of the next president,” Freeman predicted.

While Freeman said it is premature to be on Capitol Hill before the next administration enters the White House, a combination of all interested parties “speaking a really similar language is what will motivate Congress to get the job done.”

“Illegal sports betting is not a victim-less crime,” Freeman said. “When that money goes into an illegal market, it doesn’t just suddenly come over to the legal, white market. It stays in the illegal market to fund other illegal activities.”

Contact Nicole Raz at nraz@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4512. Find @JournalistNikki on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Mirage volcano going soon as Hard Rock prep work begins

The multi-phase project includes a complete renovation of the existing hotel-casino structure and the construction of a massive guitar-shaped hotel tower.