TopOfTheCircle.com

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Nov. 26, 2017 — A radioactive marketplace?

Until this year, no major professional sports league would even harbor the idea of having a franchise in Las Vegas, Nev.

That is, until the Oakland Raiders signed an agreement to move its team into the desert, the NHL agreed to add the Las Vegas Golden Knights, and the WNBA sold the San Antonio Stars to MGM, allowing the team to move to The Strip.

The clamor of pro sports leagues to one of the world’s gambling capitals is some time in coming. There have been rumors of various teams, notable the Sacramento Kings, moving operations to Las Vegas because of the booming growth of the city. Between 1990 and 2000, the city doubled in population and its attractions became a lot more garish. And today, the city sits at 28th in population in the United States, meaning that the city should have a place in a league 28 teams or greater.

But something has happened this year that should give pause. The Golden Knights were brought into the National Hockey League as the league’s 31st franchise, which breaks the pattern of expansion in pairs. In addition, scheduling 31 teams for an 82-game season requires a lot of compromise in order to have a balanced schedule.

What’s more, expansion teams in any sport are a collection of castoffs, rookies, journeymen, ne’er-do-wells, has-beens, and never-will-bes.

And yet. And yet, as of this morning, the Las Vegas Golden Knights are leading the NHL’s Pacific Division of the Western Conference.

It’s an unusual occurrence, one which should be questioned as to the integrity of competition. In other words, the winning ways of the Knights are, I think, too good to be true.

Now, I understand that it’s entirely possible that gambling interests have not yanked their tendrils into professional hockey. After all, a hallmark of today’s pro sports economy is pay over and above the average working person’s wage and provide a good-enough lifestyle so that an athlete wouldn’t be tempted by bribes offered by gamblers. It was argued, for example, that the 1919 Chicago White Sox (as well as any other pro baseball player of that age) were so underpaid for their entertainment value that the players on that team were easy for gamblers to influence. Hence, the Black Sox.

But there have been gambling scandals in recent years. Point-shaving in college basketball, rigged results on a massive scale in soccer.

Somehow, I don’t think pro sports’ entry into Las Vegas is going to end well.

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