Casino operator MGM Resorts has purchased the WNBA’s San Antonio Stars and is moving the team to Las Vegas.
On Tuesday, Women’s National Basketball Association president Lisa Borders announced that the Stars will play in Las Vegas as of next season, which starts in June 2018. The team will make its home game debut in the MGM-owned 12k-seat Mandalay Bay Events Center on the Las Vegas Strip.
Borders told the Associated Press that she’d initiated contact with MGM regarding a potential sale of the team after she informed the WNBA of the Stars ownership group’s interest in selling out. MGM’s chief experience and marketing officer Lilian Tomovich called the acquisition “a great alignment, frankly, with the DNA of our company.”
MGM isn’t the first casino operator to take a stake in an WNBA franchise. The tribal operators of Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun casino control the Connecticut Sun team, which plays at the tribe’s Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville.
The Stars will become the second professional sports team to play its home games in Sin City, following the National Hockey League’s Las Vegas Golden Knights, the expansion franchise that took to the ice at T-Mobile Arena – which is co-owned by MGM Resorts, although MGM holds no stake in the team – for its first games earlier this month. The National Football League’s Oakland Raiders will play their first games as the Las Vegas Raiders starting with the 2020 NFL season.
It remains to be seen whether the Stars’ move to Vegas will make it more likely that an NBA franchise will consider making a change. The NBA Summer League – featuring a mix of rookies and NBA teams’ lesser lights – has long made its home in Vegas. Major League Baseball will also now have less reason to rule out Vegas should relocation or expansion proposals surface.
All of this activity plays out against a backdrop of the December 4 date for oral arguments at the US Supreme Court regarding New Jersey’s quest to overturn the federal prohibition on sports betting, a scenario that the leagues continue to claim would cause ‘irreparable harm’ to their on-the-field product. Only a few years ago, the concept of a Sin City franchise was the third rail of US professional sports. Now? Ask not for whom the bell tolls, PASPA…