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Would MLS Expansion to Las Vegas Boost US Betting Interest?

Ej Garr for Bookies.com

Ej Garr  | 4 mins

Would MLS Expansion to Las Vegas Boost US Betting Interest?

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There have been recent developments suggesting that Major League Soccer is eyeing the possibilities of adding an expansion team in Las Vegas, Nevada, with a secondary goal of bringing sports betting – and particularly MLS betting – to another level.

Amid the prospect of MLS having up to 30 teams within a few years, Las Vegas is on the discussion list to land one of those expansion entries to the league. MLS Commissioner Don Garber has been extremely open about his perceptions of betting and the influence it has both in the country and in the game of soccer.

Garber, according to SportTechie, said the sports betting angle interests him as well as the city of Las Vegas as a potential market.

“The story of Las Vegas is not about people going to a casino and then going to a hockey game, it’s the people who live in Las Vegas that are becoming fans — people underestimate that,” Garber said, according to the SportTechie report. “Mark (Abbott, MLS deputy commissioner) and I met with the mayor of Las Vegas 20 years ago about putting a team in there, and it was really verboten back then to think that pro sports would go there. Now it’s a mad dash to go to Vegas. It’s an exciting market. And I could see it being on our list for future teams.”

MLS in the Sports Betting Scene

Sports betting in the United States has seen its laws change state by state in a dramatic way since May 2018, when a U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on sports betting outside of Nevada.

But adding a team that hails from Las Vegas will not likely have the effect that many might attach to bringing a franchise to Sin City. When the NHL added the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017, betting on sports was certainly not at the forefront in the decision to bring them into the league. The NHL team’s owner, Bill Foley, told ESPN in 2017 that “gambling is irrelevant to what we’re all about.”

At the moment, MLS has immediate plans to extend the league to 28 teams. As of now there isn’t much evidence to be found that screams that MLS in Las Vegas will change anything betting related in our country.

As of June 2019, MLS revenue ranks 15th globally in revenue with the NFL on top of the list. Betting on NFL, as well as the fantasy sports aspect, has soared to tremendous heights over the last two years.

While the NFL supports certain types of betting, it would certainly never announce that the goal of adding a team in Las Vegas would be to make sports betting more acceptable or easier to the public, even with the Oakland Raiders headed to the desert. That move is on pace for the 2020 NFL season.

In April, Garber was quoted in the Las Vegas Sun as stating, “We of late have been in very positive discussions in Las Vegas and in Charlotte. We still believe Phoenix is a good market. We have been in discussions with Detroit. I will say that we are going to take our time on team 30.”

Too Early to Determine Impact on MLS Betting

Since there is still no actual plan to bring soccer to Las Vegas outside of a prospect and possibility that is years from developing, there is no room to speak about how a team there might affect the soccer betting industry just yet.

Trying to envelop betting on soccer to make the game worth watching should not be the short-term goal, nor a long-term one. MLS odds don’t make enough impact enough within the American economy to influence betting in Las Vegas, Europe, or Asia, so we can tone down the chatter of how soccer in Las Vegas, if it happens, is going to change the game.

There are 24 teams, divided into two conferences, competing in MLS in 2019 and three more teams are expected to join the league over the next two years. Nashville FC and Inter Miami CF will enter MLS in 2020, while Austin FC is set to be welcomed to the league in 2021.

Beyond that, there is not one official announcement that tells us that soccer in Las Vegas is going to change our lives as sports bettors anytime soon.

About the Author

Ej Garr writes about the MLS and soccer for Bookies.com. Known as "The Rainmaker" and an expert at handicapping international soccer as well as US soccer.