Las Vegas finally hits jackpot, landing 2007 NBA All-Star Game

City hopes it's first step in big-time sports future

August 06, 2005|By Bill Ordine | Bill Ordine,SUN STAFF

Las Vegas, a city on a roll, yesterday tossed a seven - as in 2007.

The NBA formally announced that its All-Star Game for that year will be held in Sin City, a decision that has been considered a fait accompli for several weeks.

Even though Vegas has accommodated scores of title fights, professional golf and tennis tournaments, the yearly pro rodeo championship and an annual NASCAR race, landing the NBA showcase is a major step toward the association will big-time sports the city craves.

"Las Vegas does every day what we do for All-Star Weekend, when you look at the entertainment spectacles," NBA commissioner David Stern said during a news conference in Las Vegas.

"I think we're going to basically give our guests the Las Vegas experience, which is what I think we'll be showcasing in terms of the entertainment, the restaurants," he added.

While the NBA will bring the All-Star Game along with the trappings - such as three-point and slam-dunk contests - to Las Vegas, the NFL this week said it still has to mull whether to allow a TV network to even advertise a show named Las Vegas during its games.

In the 2006 season, NFL football will return to NBC, which airs a series starring James Caan that's set in a fictional casino in Las Vegas. And it's unclear whether the network will be permitted to promote its show during telecasts.

"It's a matter we still have to address. It's not something that's immediately on our radar screen since NBC doesn't have its first game for 13 months," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

"But it's part of a long-standing agreement with the networks that prohibits [gambling-related] ... advertising that dates back to the 1960s."

Some consider the NFL's interpretation of gambling advertising to be broad. For instance, although the famous "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" campaign does not specifically depict gambling, the NFL has turned down those ads.

"We believe that Las Vegas is synonymous with casino gambling and sports gambling," McCarthy explained.

An NBC spokesman said the network had not addressed promoting its casino drama with the league.

Meanwhile, Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman - the city's point man in trying to attract big-time sports to that city - was gushing over winning the 56th NBA All-Star Game.

"It's going to take us to a completely different level as far as the world is concerned," Goodman said. "The entertainment capital of the world just got a little bit better. A little bit bigger. A little bit glitzier. A little bit more glamorous."

The game itself, scheduled for Feb. 18, 2007, will be held at the 18,000-seat Thomas & Mack Center, the home court of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

Many activities in the days leading to the game, including the league's Jam Session, in which fans can collect autographs from players, participate in hoop activities and enjoy live music, will be at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. The center is part of an upscale casino resort.

For the city to win the All-Star Game, Nevada casinos agreed to not accept wagers on the event.

The issue of sports gaming has long been one impediment to Las Vegas gaining a major sports franchise. Stern has said his reservations about an NBA team in Vegas were not tied to gambling in general, but rather to betting specifically on league games.

Yesterday, he deflected questions about the city's chances of getting an NBA team, but did say that Las Vegas could be part of an ongoing rotation for the All-Star Game. Next year, it will be held in Houston.

"I'm concerned that the way Las Vegas is going to treat our guests so well," Stern said, "our owners are not going to want to go anywhere else."

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