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FEATURED — Las Vegas Cup Title Cements Sin City as Hottest Pro Sports Town

FEATURED — Las Vegas Cup Title Cements Sin City as Hottest Pro Sports Town

“Sin City’’ is now Stanley Cup City as Las Vegas put another feather in its bonnet Tuesday night as a growing mecca of professional sports.

Mark Stone Stanley Cup
Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone holds the Stanley Cup in celebration after defeating the Florida Panthers in Game 5 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The Knights’ win cements Vegas as a sports town. (Image: AP)

Can June bring any more good news to Las Vegas as a professional sports town? The Strip has always been the king of legalized sports betting, but Vegas now has its sights shifting in many wonderful directions.

In just their sixth season, the Las Vegas Golden Knights captured the Stanley Cup. They engineered a 9-3 trouncing of the Florida Panthers Tuesday at T-Mobile Arena, which hosted a packed house of 19,058 and another few thousand outside in the desert heat, watching a big screen in the concourse.

The victory put the capstone on Las Vegas being the ultimate model expansion franchise. Only two other teams had ever advanced to the conference finals in three of their first six seasons, and those squads played when the league had fewer than 10 teams.

Only five other teams won a Cup in its first six years, and most of them played in the old days.

Vegas Sports Betting on the Rise

While Las Vegas celebrated its first hockey crown, the Nevada sportsbooks took a bit of a bath Tuesday because of the furious betting for the hometown Golden Knights.

NHL betting has seen an uptick of about 20% in Vegas since the Knights arrived six years ago, most notably on games at T-Mobile, according to Jeff Sherman, spokesman for the Westgate Sports Book.

That’s good news, except for on Tuesday, when the wagering was very heavily aimed at Las Vegas lifting the silver chalice and entering  Game 5 with a 3-1 lead.

Gametime Odds

The night began merrily, with captain Mark Stone scoring the first goal, racing in on a 2-on-1 break and putting on the brakes in front of the crease.

Stone’s wrister climbed into the net nine minutes into the game for the first of nine tallies on this championship night. Stone wound up with a hat trick.

“In Nevada, we are writing all Knights money for Game 5,’’ Sherman said before the faceoff.

The odds went from the Golden Knights being bet at -155 to -190, and then surged to -210 at the close when it was announced Florida star Matthew Tkachuk would miss the game with an injury.

Sherman said his other jurisdictions, Colorado, New Jersey, Arizona, Tennessee, Iowa, Ohio, and Maryland were betting the Panthers.

The homer bets turned into winning bets. Though payouts were low in Vegas books (a $210 bet paid $100), the betting slip is a Stanley Cup-related souvenir.

Stone lifted Lord Stanley’s chalice first, skating it around the rink. The wild celebration ensued on the ice with beach balls and pink flamingos being kicked around.

It’s a moment I’ll never forget, and one I didn’t take lightly,” Stone said. “I wanted to soak it all in. That’s the one time you want to be selfish in this game, is you want to soak in that lap, so that’s what I did.”

The night occurred nine months after the Las Vegas Aces won the WNBA championship, setting the tone for good Vegas karma.

Though the Las Vegas Raiders (aka, the former Oakland Raiders), showed slippage and finished up at 6-11 in their third season, they are firmly entrenched on the landscape in the beautiful Allegiant Stadium close to The Strip.

What’s Next for Vegas Sports

It looks like the Raiders’ former Oakland housemates will join them in the desert soon.

On Tuesday, the Nevada Senate approved the $380 million public funding bill for a new stadium for the Oakland A’s on the Las Vegas Strip during a special session. There’s still a ways to go, as  29 MLB owners need to approve a move, but momentum is gaining rapidly.

The lone holdout in establishing a Vegas foothold is the NBA. An NBA franchise moving to town seemed like a dead deal after the violence, club-related deaths, and traffic issues during All-Star Weekend in the city in 2007.

Now it seems only a matter of time. Reports have Las Vegas and Seattle as the two favorites to land the next two NBA teams.

During the NBA Finals last week, Commissioner Adam Silver said expansion talks will pick up steam as soon as a new media rights deal is hammered out. That could occur as soon as April.

Already, the NBA has a strong foothold in town, with the Las Vegas Summer League staged in July.

All 30 teams now have entrants, and Sin City becomes an NBA convention for two weeks with all the general managers, coaches, and scouts milling about as the league’s hottest prospects compete in games from noon to midnight at UNLV’s Thomas Mack Center.

‘It’s been a long time since we’ve expanded,’’ Silver said on an ESPN show. “There are a bunch of great markets in the US, frankly, other markets in Canada have shown interest as well; Mexico City has shown interest. So I think it’s a natural part of any organization to grow over time. And clearly, this sport is growing in the United States, and it’s growing globally. So, not at this moment, but we will look to expansion in the future.’’

An NBA team would give Vegas an entrant in all four major sports leagues if the A’s arrive as expected after all those barren years of the city having no pro sports team because of gambling-related fears.

For now, the Cup is in the desert, and the golden jerseys will be sunlit at a parade down The Strip set for Saturday.

“We want to be a global franchise,’’ Golden Knights owner Bill Foley has said. “The visitors to Las Vegas can’t get a ticket because we’re sold out, but they’re going to buy gear. They’re going to be back in Shanghai wearing a Golden Knights hat.”

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