Officials Pitch Las Vegas Team to NBA

Friday, April 6th 2007, 9:03 am
By: News On 6

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Local officials made no offer to restrict betting on NBA teams in a pitch for a franchise sent to commissioner David Stern on Thursday.

The proposal, requested by Stern in February, emphasizes Nevada's gambling regulatory record and argues the system ``should provide sufficient cause for the association to permit a franchise to exist comfortably in Las Vegas without concern of corruption or interference by unsavory individuals.''

Stern has said he was opposed to expansion into Las Vegas as long as gambling on NBA teams was allowed. But during NBA All-Star week in Las Vegas, the commissioner invited a proposal from local officials that would address his concerns, a move many took as a sign that his opposition was softening.

The league also asked city officials to address the need for a new arena after pronouncing the Thomas & Mack Center below professional standards. Stern promised to bring the proposal to the association's Board of Governors meeting later this month.

Many believed local officials, led by Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman, would answer with a proposed ban on betting on a Las Vegas team _ a revival of a rule previously applied to the state's college teams at UNLV and Nevada. The rule was abolished in 2001 by regulators who viewed it as a hypocrisy that implied gambling was wrong.

Casino companies _ whose sports books accepted $635.4 million in college and professional basketball bets last year and who have been closely involved in drafting the NBA proposal _ also have publicly opposed the rule.

Goodman defended that position Thursday.

``I believe it would be hypocritical for us to even suggest it,'' Goodman said at a news conference. ``We have to be true enough to ourselves.''

But the mayor would not rule out that his position might change as negotiations continue, joking ``I could be a hypocrite for the right reasons.''

He suggested it was the gambling industry's opposition that led him to hold the line on sports betting, at least for now.

``It's not me, I am the mayor. I'm the guy trying to get this on for the benefit if the community,'' said Goodman, whose city boundaries do not encompass the Las Vegas Strip. ``I'm dealing with people who have the major industry here and whose input I have to have. I wasn't about to go off half-cocked. No good could come of that.''

Casinos banned betting on the All-Star game at the league's insistence.

The letter also was signed by Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid and Rossi Ralenkotter, the head of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor's Authority.

The plan suggested gambling on NBA teams in Las Vegas could be ``monitored jointly'' by the league and state agencies, and that legislation could be passed to assure the NBA ``that no improprieties will occur.''

``Anything that's needed in order to keep the sport honest,'' Goodman said.

The letter also said city officials were considering proposals for a world-class arena and offered to include NBA in planning.

NBA spokesman Mark Broussard confirmed Stern had received the letter and said it would be discussed by team owners April 20.

Goodman has said the push to bring a professional basketball team to Las Vegas is a top priority of this third and final term, which he won Tuesday with 84 percent of the vote.

His plans hit a public relations roadblock in February when the All-Star game led to a spike in arrests and complaints about rowdy behavior from fans. The week ended with a triple shooting at a Las Vegas strip club, where Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam ``Pacman'' Jones and two friends are being investigated for their roles in an earlier brawl.