Does Las Vegas need another stadium just as T-Mobile Arena is being completed? Image: T-Mobile.

Less than a month after approving the St. Louis Rams move to Los Angeles the NFL's next relocation rumor has already started. Sin City is the city of interest this time and the richest man in town, Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas Sands (LVS -0.55%), has his hands in the action.

Adelson's Las Vegas Sands has talked with UNLV and Majestic Realty Co. about building a $1 billion-plus stadium on 42 acres of land the pair recently bought adjacent to MGM Resorts' (MGM -1.57%) flagship MGM Grand and the Las Vegas airport. Adelson has reportedly met with Mark Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders, an owner who would love to find a new city to play in. The project may not get off the ground considering the NFL's aversion to gambling, but it shows that the draw of Las Vegas is no longer the games of change in the casino but rather the entertainment the city can offer.  

The draw of the bright lights of Las Vegas
The combination of a casino and an NFL team may seem strange until you think about just how much Las Vegas has changed in the last 30 years. The Strip used to be all about gambling, but now people come to Las Vegas for shows, restaurants, clubs, and other non-gaming events. Adding another event attraction would only further Las Vegas' draw.

The numbers below back this up. Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts, and Wynn Resorts all get over half of their revenue from non-gaming. And in the case of MGM, the non-gaming percentage would be even higher if we stripped out its Macau operations from the numbers it reports.


Casino Revenue (mrq)

Non-Casino Revenue (mrq)

Percent of Revenue From Non-Gaming

Las Vegas Sands 

$129.4 million

$270.6 million


MGM Resorts 

$1.18 billion

$1.28 billion


Wynn Las Vegas 

$152.1 million

$259.1 million


Note: MGM Resorts consolidates MGM China operations, overstating the impact of the casino.

Source: Company earnings releases.

Las Vegas Sands was arguably the leader in this non-gaming draw to Las Vegas, betting big on the convention business when The Venetian Las Vegas was first built. Recently, MGM Resorts has followed suit with T-Mobile Arena on The Strip behind New York-New York that will host UFC fights, concerts, and potentially an NBA or NHL team.

Does Las Vegas need another stadium?
One of the drivers of the stadium is UNLV, which has been looking for a new arena for years. But it's tough to justify $1 billion or more on a stadium for a college team. Adelson's team at Las Vegas Sands argues that a stadium would attract bowl games, concerts, NFL exhibition games, boxing, soccer, and more events that would draw tens of thousands of new visitors to Las Vegas.

If that's true, then the stadium could be a great addition to the city. With millions of visitors coming to the city for entertainment, it's easy to imagine that it would get more use than the new NFL stadiums built in Minneapolis, Atlanta, or Phoenix. At the same time, however, it would also be competing with the new T-Mobile Arena, which has better access to The Strip, and other smaller arenas at MGM, Bellagio, and Mandalay Bay casinos that have hosted events for years. So, does Las Vegas really need another stadium? 

Las Vegas Sands has bigger battles to fight
What's curious about the fight for a stadium, and the $780 million in public funds to go along with it, is that Adelson is using his public company, Las Vegas Sands, to promote the project (and reportedly the Las Vegas newspaper he recently purchased). As an investor, I think that's a distraction from Las Vegas Sands' operations and owning a stadium would be as well. If he wants to use some of his $24 billion net worth to build a stadium fine, but stadiums haven't proven to be the great investment that casinos have been, or he wouldn't be asking for public money.

That's not to say that a stadium wouldn't be an incremental benefit to The Strip, particularly MGM Resorts who owns most of the casinos in that area. But with numerous other stadiums and arenas within a few miles of the proposed sight, I don't think it'll be the game changer for the city or Las Vegas Sands that it's being sold as. And taxpayers -- including visitors to Las Vegas -- may have a thing or two to say about paying for a stadium they may never set foot in.