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Las Vegas may finally land a professional sports franchise

Sin City is betting on a makeover
Inside Sin City's plan to land professional sports teams 06:55

Sin City is betting on a makeover. Las Vegas has long been the gambling capital of America, but it now wants to become a big-time sports town, reports CBS News' Mark Albert.

Even in Vegas, where the wagers are big and the odds even bigger, Bill Foley has made one heck of a bet.

"I am the man that wants to bring hockey to the desert," Foley said. "And we're really, really close."

Foley is a multi-millionaire businessman who grew grew up in Ottawa, Canada, playing hockey. The West Point graduate now wants to drop the puck in his adopted hometown.

"This is my mission. I'm going to be the majority owner of the tea," Foley said, adding that he wouldn't confirm or deny that it would cost him $500 million. "It's a lot of money, but it's going to be fun."

Foley's sales pitch to fans and the NHL includes brand new T-Mobile Arena. AEG and MGM opened the up-to-20,000-seat arena just off the Las Vegas strip in April. It's been holding events showcasing entertainers and was built to host an NHL or NBA team.

Not one dime of public money went into construction of the $375 million facility, but lots of people have anted-up.

Foley's website is already advertising season tickets. In fact, Foley said 14,000 people have put down deposits of at least $150 each.

"You convinced people to give you money for tickets to a team that doesn't exist?" Albert asked.

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"And the arena wasn't built. That's pretty good, wasn't it? I like that," Foley said. "Maybe I can sell some other things."

Foley's toughest sales job to the league may be Las Vegas itself. Jon Ralston has covered politics there for 30 years. He's felt a "seismic shift" in how gambling is perceived nationwide and by those who lead professional sports leagues.

"The real question I think is, is Vegas still toxic?" Ralston said.

Last year, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made this admission about gambling: "It's good for business, I don't want to hide from that... that it creates more engagement."

On the gridiron, an estimated $95 billion is wagered every year on NFL and college football games. And 90 percent of NFL franchises also now have ad agreements with daily fantasy sites DraftKings or FanDuel.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged as much last month, saying: "All of us have evolved a little bit on gambling... I don't think daily fantasy is (gambling)."

But it may not be gambling that stops the NFL from lacing up in Vegas. Money could sack the deal.

The Oakland Raiders' proposal, presented in April by owner Mark Davis, bets on $750 million from the public to help build a $1.4 billion domed stadium complex on a lot near the Las Vegas strip. The cash would come from increasing the tax on hotel stays and would be the most public money spent on any of the past 11 NFL stadiums.

"A lot of arguments will be made. If you're going to divert that much, why not use it for some of the real needs that are here -- schools, roads, etc.?" Ralston said.

Casino magnet Sheldon Adelson has dealt himself in. The Raiders would contribute $500 million, while Adelson and his partners chip in $150 million. But the deal would have to be struck this summer, in an election year.

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Ralston said this would be "very difficult."

"The public relations of it are a nightmare. Everyone knows that Sheldon Adelson is one of the richest guys in the world," Ralston said. "For him to ask the public to pony up $750 million when he's worth $28 billion, that's just not going to fly -- not just with the public, but with the elected officials."

One of those elected officials is Steve Sisolak, who chairs the Clark County Commission, which would have to approve any NFL stadium deal.

"I think $750 million without some type of return is a little bit too much for the taxpayer to shoulder," Sisolak said. "I'm skeptical, but I'm optimistic at the same time."

Sisolak hopes the NFL and the Raiders will budge to reduce the amount of public money needed.

"So for you, it's a non-starter if the NFL or the Raiders were to get 100 percent of concessions, 100 percent of parking and 100 percent of naming rights?" Albert asked.

"If they get 100 percent of the revenue and only put in $650 million, it's going to be difficult. Real difficult," Sisolak said. "It'd be hard to get on."

This lifelong Green Bay Packers fan said crucial decisions must be made by an end-of-July deadline or the clock may run out.

"If this opportunity slips away and the Raiders were to find a new home, I don't think you're going to see another opportunity come available for a long time," Sisolak said. "I guess we're approaching the two-minute warning."

But the NHL -- not the NFL -- may score first. Pro hockey's annual awards show is June 22 in Vegas. The NHL's Board of Governors, which must vote to approve any expansion, is now scheduled to convene there just hours before.

"I have been looking forward to it my whole life, Vegas' first professional sports team," said hockey fan Tom Mullin.

Die-hard hockey fans like Eric Biro are among the 14,000 who paid to be on Bill Foley's season ticket list. He said he put down $600 "because I want to have a hockey team."

Ken Boehlke created the site Sinbin.Vegas to track every minute development.

"We've always been a tourist city. We've never had something that we can say, 'This is what defines Las Vegas.' And an NHL team would define Las Vegas," Boehlke said.

And it would define Bill Foley.

"I'm not a patient man, but I've learned patience," Foley said. "I have been spoken to by the commissioner at various times when I did not do exactly what he wanted to do. I'm never going to do that again. I haven't been spoken to by anyone as I was spoken to by him since I was a plebe at West Point."

Foley said he's now out of the penalty box, with his goal finally in sight.

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