How would MLB affect Vegas?

May 18, 2004 7:39 AM

While sports book supervisors and directors don’t believe Major League Baseball would be corrupted by its arrival in Las Vegas, most think its impact on their operations would be "minimal."

By contrast, an NBA or NFL franchise in Las Vegas would have a greater impact than Major League Baseball, which is a "grind" until the playoffs and World Series arrive, said Rob Akers, sports book director of The Venetian.

Akers pointed out the action on baseball, with its 162-game schedule, "is low compared to other sports," and believes his hotel would be willing to forgo all betting on baseball if that’s what it would take to bring a major league team into Las Vegas.

"I wouldn’t foresee that as a problem. The benefits outweigh the drawbacks of losing the baseball games from his board," Akers said. He added that the basketball and hockey playoffs extend into June, and "horse racing and boxing is always year round" to interest bettors until the football season arrives.

He said the perfect scenario would have the sports books in Las Vegas being allowed to post every Major League game except the local team’s. While he thinks baseball’s impact would be "minimal" on his sports book, Akers would see the arrival of MLB as "a major positive. I don’t see too many negatives.’’

David Lee, who oversees the sports books at Mandalay Bay, Circus Circus, Excalibur, and the Luxor, said he disagrees that every game should be taken off the board, but "I could live with" making only the games played by the Las Vegas team off-limits to bettors.

Lee said he thought a Major League team in Las Vegas would attract the number of fans it needs, and he said the team’s "chances (of survival) are enhanced by the demographics," which suggest the population of the city will continue to increase. "I can’t imagine (it) not being supported," he said. "As long as they’re a winner."

A private group is currently trying to bring the Montreal Expos to Las Vegas. Major League Baseball is considering a number of cities, but many believe Las Vegas is a longshot to land the team.

Patrick Rethore, sports book director at Arizona Charlie’s East, says that concerns about gamblers influencing the games are overblown. "I don’t know what they’re worried about," he said. Any objections to baseball because of the legalized gambling on teams in Las Vegas should have been dropped "once they said OK to the UNLV situation," Rethore said. "What’s the difference between a college team or a professional team?" in terms of having their games posted by a sports book, he said.

"I think they need to understand how (the) gaming (industry) controls sports. They are watching every single day," Rethore said.

He said that while "baseball is third on the food chain" in terms of drawing betting action, the loss of baseball games off the sports books’ boards would leave bettors "with nothing else to bet on in June and July. If you lose baseball, you (the sports book) lose two months of the year."

"I don’t think baseball will ever let Las Vegas have a major league team," he said, and if it did, some sports book workers would lose their jobs if the books had to stop taking baseball bets as a condition of MLB allowing a team to relocate to Las Vegas.

Andrew Barton, the sports book’s day supervisor at the Barbary Coast, also doesn’t think major league baseball will put a team in Las Vegas because "we don’t have the fan base (but) we’re a growing city and that could change."

At the Excalibur sports book director Jeff Stoneback said he thinks the Montreal Expos will relocate to Washington, D.C., and said he doesn’t think Las Vegas residents would support a team. "There’s so much more to do in this city," he said, "I don’t think it would work."

Scott Reynolds, the day supervisor at the Mandalay Bay sports book, disagreed. "I think Vegas should have a baseball team and there should be betting on it. I think it would be great for the city. We take bets on UNLV all around town so I don’t know why we shouldn’t be allowed to take bets" on a Major League Baseball team.

He said not allowing baseball betting in the sports books if the city gets a major league team "would adversely affect every sports book in town."

Reynolds added "it would take a couple of years to build a team and by that time the city should have grown enough to support."