On June 22nd, 2016 at an NHL league owner meeting, the Vegas Golden Knights were unanimously voted to begin play in the 2017-2018 season. Fast forward to Sunday, May 20th, 2018 and the Vegas Golden Knights made history, being the first expansion team in all of sports to reach the final round of a postseason since the St. Louis Blues in 1968 (although the NHL had only expanded to twelve teams and the playoffs contained eight teams). Though they call themselves the “Golden Misfits” their impact on the league has been tremendous and could very well end in Vegas being the first expansion team to ever claim a professional championship. Lesser known however is that their impact on the city of Paradise, Nevada and the surrounding area has been equally great.
Inaugural Success of the Golden Knights
The Knights haven’t just been playing well on the ice, they’ve been selling well off it. To end their inaugural regular season, they finished seventeenth in the NHL in average home attendance (18,042) but finished fourth in average arena capacity filled per game (103.9%) due to the amount of standing room only tickets they provide. The total attendance reached by Vegas this season was 739,740 and according to Forbes, the average ticket price in T-Mobile Arena is $88. Together, that’s an estimated ticket revenue of around $65.1 million. Compared to the Chicago Blackhawks (#1 in total attendance with 887,794) who’s average ticket price is $90, the Blackhawks have made as estimated $79.9 million in ticket revenue. For a brand-new franchise with a much smaller arena, the Knights have set a nice ticket pace that can serve them well for following seasons.
In a time where reaching youth audiences has become increasingly difficult for professional sports, the Vegas Golden Knights have taken a chance on something no other pro sports team has done. Last month, the Golden Knights launched their own channel on Twitch, the popular video gaming stream site, and plan to provide exclusive content on the platform. Although NFL and MLB games have begun to stream games on social platforms, and the NBA has launched an NBA 2K League, the Knights have developed a team-specific one.
Their first program garnered 3,260 total views and gave fans a chance to interact directly with former player Shane Hnidy as well as prospects Cody Glass, Nic Hague and Nick Suzuki as they played NHL 18. Overall, their channel has 761 followers in less than a month, giving the team hope that they could grow this idea into a worthwhile endeavor. If this channel does become successful, the team can easily bring in more sponsors to boost overall revenues and other professional teams may follow in their footsteps.
Whether or not the Golden Knights have had a direct impact on the employment in Paradise, Nevada and the surrounding area is up for debate. Regardless, employment in the area has never been higher. Along with employment, the labor force in the area has also never been higher. The Bureau of Labor Statistics identifies both employed and unemployed people who can work over the age of 16.
The working force in Paradise is around 1,100,000 with about 1,050,000 currently employed in the area. In March 2018, the unemployment rate in the same area was 5.1% the second lowest it has been in ten years (the lowest being December 2017 at 5%).
From 2016 when the Golden Knights were announced as a franchise to March of 2018, around 50,000 jobs have been added and the total employment rate in the area does not show signs of slowing down. Again, it’s not that there is a direct correlation that the Knights added 50,000 jobs to the area, it’s that the area they have grown in has grown with them. For a new franchise, they have the support, money and after the Stanley Cup series, they could have a championship as well.
Although the Supreme Court ruled that states can now decide for themselves to legalize gambling on sports, it’s been legal in Las Vegas for a long time. In December 2017, Nevada roped in $248.8 million in revenue off sports gambling, its most of all time. They also set a record high of $4.87 billion wagered over the calendar year and the Nevada Gaming Control Board reports that the total amount wagered has been above $4 billion for three years running.
Although growth has been seen for all sports, the biggest growth in the past year is in the “other” category. This category includes smaller sports such as hockey and boxing but does not include the larger sports such as basketball, baseball and football (which have risen 6%, 9% and 4% respectively). Although the Mayweather vs McGregor fight last year received record bets for the “other” category, the Golden Knights have been considered a huge factor in that category and have increased the bets on the entire sport of hockey.
It’s not all good news for Vegas oddsmakers and casinos. South Point oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro said they should call Golden Knights home games “free date night” because of the astronomical winnings by bets placed on the Knights. According to ESPN, a $100 wager on every Knights game this season would have net the bettor $1,395. Local properties are also reporting that Golden Knights home games are receiving 10 to 15 times the handle as any other NHL team, showing that locals and fans want to bet on their team and they have the confidence to do so. The sportsbook director for the Golden Nugget, Tony Miller, said “When the [Chicago] Blackhawks came to town, my handle on that one game was more than the entire Stanley Cup Final last year.” The Knights are clearly influencing the betting in Vegas on hockey and as the Stanley Cup finals begin, expect bigger and riskier bets to come in Sin City.
Since the beginning of their franchise, the Golden Knights have created the perfect storm in Paradise and Nevada as a whole. They’ve been lucky that the area they’re in can afford attending games and events, but they’ve worked to accumulate the support there as well. The Golden Knights will also continue to gain interest through gambling before other states begin to legalize it. But for now, the hometown team will own the books and could end up owning the Stanley Cup to go with it.