Since the NFL and NHL are heading to Las Vegas, the natural question is whether or not other American sports leagues will follow suit.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters on Thursday that he’d be open to considering Sin City as a possible spot for relocation.
“If we were looking at relocation,” Manfred said, “Las Vegas would be on the list.”
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Since both the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays are both in need of new stadiums but are having trouble securing funding, they are the two most likely franchises to be considered.
However, Joe Knowles of the Chicago Tribune explained why the Rays are not likely to leave Tampa Bay:
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“The Rays’ chances of staying in Tampa Bay were bolstered slightly this week when a measure in the Florida Senate that would have prohibited professional sports teams from using public money failed to pass. Without some sort of public funding, it’s doubtful Rays ownership could raise enough private capital to renovate or replace Tropicana Field.”
Additionally, Manfred didn’t rule out the possibility of a Las Vegas expansion team, but said that “until the Tampa Bay and Oakland situations are settled, I can’t see talking about expansion.”
In February, the commissioner noted that the presence of legalized gambling wouldn’t prevent the MLB from having a Vegas franchise (via Betsy Hefland of the Las Vegas Review-Journal). “Las Vegas could be a viable market for us,” Manfred said. I don’t think that the presence of legalized gambling in Las Vegas should necessarily disqualify that market as a potential major league city.”
Once a major road block towards attracting pro teams, sports betting has now become more accepted among sports leagues. The Las Vegas Golden Knights and Las Vegas Raiders are proof of that.
Westgate sportsbook director Jay Kornegay pointed out that the climate has changed over recent years:
“Those comments show you how much the climate has changed in recent years towards Las Vegas and the whole sports gambling industry,” he said in February. “Led by (NBA commissioner Adam) Silver and now Manfred, I think they’ve come to realize that sports gambling is taking place everywhere and that Nevada represents only three percent of everything that’s wagered in this country.”
While the Rays are certainly a possibility to relocate, it seems as though the Athletics might be the second Oakland franchise to move to Vegas if they don’t receive funding for a new stadium, which looks like a long shot at this point.
Also, from a geographic perspective, it would make more sense for the A’s to move to a bordering state rather than the Rays moving across the country since they’re a member of the AL East division.
No matter what team ends up relocating, it seems like a good bet to assume that professional baseball will be played in Vegas sometime in the next decade.
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