The T-Mobile Arena is turning out to be as good a venue for the Pac-12 basketball tournament as it is a hockey arena for the Golden Knights. That is an undisputed fact – and it is becoming known beyond Las Vegas.
Just the other day I visited some old friends who told me how much they enjoy coming here every March for the tournament. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott made a great decision moving it to Las Vegas, so here’s an idea for the commish. When the Raiders 65,000-seat domed stadium is completed in a few years, let’s have the Pac-12 football title game move here, too – at least on a regular, rotation basis.
As IMG executive Brian Movalsen told me, “The Pac-12 basketball tournament has been such a great success, I don’t see why Las Vegas wouldn’t be an excellent destination for the football championship.”
It’s true that the Pac-12 has encountered attendance problems when it has moved the game to a neutral site. The distances between schools are greater in the Pac-12 than any other major conference. For example, Washington’s Seattle campus is 1,200 air miles from Tucson and the Arizona campus.
It’s my opinion that the new stadium and Las Vegas would overcome that. Fans of the two schools would flock to here the first week of December. They could even drop by the Thomas & Mack for a little championship rodeo action. Or perhaps Kenny Chesney will even show up and do a concert that weekend at the T-Mobile.
On top of all that, some of my friends from the Pac-12 enjoyed making a wager before the basketball action. I’m sure football fans would enjoy doing the same.
Speaking of betting, I recently returned from Australia, a continent that does wagering the right way. It’s legal to bet on sporting events or just about anything Down Under, and like London and Hong Kong, you can find bet shops scattered around every town.
Most of the action centers around horse racing, Australian rules football, rugby and cricket. About the only American sport that has strong betting attention in Australia is basketball. Let me rephrase that. Pro basketball. They know the NBA, but there is absolutely no interest in our collegiate activity. The March to Madness? They don’t even know what that is.
Our football – what they call gridiron – is picking up steam down there, largely because of the growing number of Australians who have made their way into the NFL. Four were active last season, including Seahawks defensive end Adam Gotsis and punters Jordan Berry of the Steelers, Lachlan Edwards of the Jets and Brad Wing of the Giants.
As a matter of fact, Jim Harbaugh has already discovered that the best punters on this planet are from Australia. The reason why centers around the rules of the Australian Football League. To an uneducated viewer, they don’t throw the ball like we do; they punt the ball forward. If you able to catch it before it hits the ground you are allowed a free kick – another punt – to a teammate or the posts where all the scoring happens on the 180-yard field. A goal counts for six points. Sorry, Auburn. You did not invent the kick-six; Australia did.
That sport is not just for punters. Our defensive backs would love to play down there. Outside of head-hunting, just about anything goes for making legal contact. Hard hits with the hip and shoulder are encouraged, there are no pads, no helmets – and no flags.
For insomniac bettors who may come across the AFL when the regular season starts in less than two weeks, keep an eye on the Adelaide Crows. They look like a loaded side to me, and they are a 6-1 co-favorite with the Sydney Swans to win the premiership.
When I toured the Melbourne Cricket Ground last month – the place that the locals call “the home of footy” – I saw one of the big areas where bets are taken by the TAB – the state-run bookmaker. That’s right. Like London and Hong Kong, you can bet in Australia on the game at the game during the game.
My VSiN colleague Ron Flatter lived in Australia for three years, and he told me, “It was great at halftime in the AFL. You go down to that big TAB pit, and it gets full of people making second-half bets on the game while they’re also watching other games and horse races and betting on all those at the same time. No wonder they take 20 minutes for halftime.”
While we wait for the rest of the U.S. to catch up with that culture, at least we have Nevada. And it doesn’t get any bigger and better than what’s coming next week with the biggest celebration of sports gambling that brings together the whole country.
As we prepare to enjoy the NCAA Tournament, here’s an invitation to come on by and say hello. If you can’t be in the arena, the best place to be is at a sports book here in Las Vegas, where the madness is just beginning.