Pro Sports in Las Vegas Aren’t Cheered by Everyone

The history of Las Vegas has been marked by a relentless churn of hotels, casinos, theaters and restaurants. But only recently has the city’s landscape included major professional sports teams.

The Golden Knights of the National Hockey League were the first to start play here in 2017. The Aces of the Women’s National Basketball Association started in 2018, and the National Football League’s Raiders arrived from Oakland in 2020. Last year, Major League Baseball’s Athletics were given the go-ahead to make the same Oakland-to-Las Vegas move, and the National Basketball Association is expected to add a team in the coming years.

Las Vegas’s transformation into a pro sports town reflects not just the leagues’ interest in the city and their general embrace of sports betting, but also the power of the region’s primary economic driver, tourism. No other major city in the United States is as reliant on a single industry, and a broad coalition led by the top resort operators helped win lucrative subsidies to build new stadiums, with the thought that out-of-town visitors would follow.

Those efforts will be on display on Sunday when Allegiant Stadium, home of the Raiders and built partly with public money, hosts Super Bowl LVIII between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers.

“Our role here and what Vegas provides is a platform for people with great ideas to come in and make them real,” said Steve Hill, the president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the man most responsible for helping to entice the teams to the city. “We’re a destination that is trying to say yes.”

Not everyone has embraced that strategy, however. In Las Vegas, the decision to set aside public money for privately held teams has amplified scrutiny of the state’s funding of critical social services, most notably for education in the nation’s fifth-largest public school district, with about 300,000 students.

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