Supreme Court decision to take on sports gambling issue might force NCAA to accept Las Vegas

(Photo: Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports)

On the heels of a federal judge issuing an injunction on March 7, 2013, that barred New Jersey from allowing sports betting in the midst of an ongoing legal battle between the state and five sports organizations, the NCAA affirmed its stance that the spread of gambling is “a threat to the integrity of athletic competition and student-athlete well-being.”

A lot has changed since then.

Las Vegas has become the de facto hub of college basketball in the week before the NCAA tournament, with four conference tournaments held there (plus another in Reno). The NHL has expanded there. The NFL is on the way.

And now, in perhaps the most interesting stress test for the NCAA’s ban on holding events in states where sports betting is legal, the Supreme Court announced Tuesday it will hear a case that could determine whether the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act is legal.

If New Jersey wins and the federal law is ruled unconstitutional, states could be able to determine for themselves whether to allow sports betting. Which could put the NCAA in an interesting situation.

It’s hard to say how many states would legalize sports betting immediately. If New Jersey and a handful of others opened betting parlors, the NCAA could certainly go on about its business without much interruption — as silly as that might be.

But over time, this is a losing issue for the NCAA, as the NHL and NFL have now tacitly admitted by moving into Las Vegas after going out of their way for years to avoid it. The reality is a large percentage of people who watch sports like to wager on sports and will find ways to do so whether it’s in a casino, online or with their local bookie.

New Jersey isn’t much of a loss for the NCAA. It’s a state with one FBS university (Rutgers) and one facility (the Prudential Center in Newark) that is equipped to host an NCAA basketball tournament. Even at that, the NCAA would rather play in Brooklyn or Manhattan anyway.

But if Florida or Texas or California legalized sports gambling, does it stand to reason that the NCAA would pull its events and ignore those states?

Again, it’s difficult to handicap how the Supreme Court is going to rule on this. Maybe status quo wins out, but on a common-sense level it’s getting more difficult every year to justify the NCAA’s stance on sports betting.

While protecting college athletes from some seedier elements of sports gambling remains a crucial part of its mission — the NCAA conducts a study on the topic every four years to guide its educational efforts — much of the negative perception of Las Vegas is rooted in a different time and place. The famous photograph of UNLV players in a hot tub with Richard “The Fixer” Perry in the early 1990s still resonates.

Still, it’s difficult to reconcile a hard-line stance against holding an NCAA tournament game at the new T-Mobile Arena on The Strip when the Pac-12 holds its tournament there without incident one week earlier. And it’s certainly hard to justify pulling a women’s soccer tournament or an NCAA track and field event out of New Jersey because of some existential gambling threat.

Even NCAA President Mark Emmert hinted at a possible softening of the policy during his annual news conference at the Final Four in April when asked if Las Vegas would be considered for the next round of bidding for the basketball tournament.

“The board has been having active discussions about that issue,” Emmert said. “They have not changed the policy yet. And they won’t be able to do so for this round of bidding. And I’ve communicated this to some of the leadership in Las Vegas. They will not be eligible for this round. Whether or not the board changes its mind before the next round, I can’t say. Obviously there’s a lot of collegiate athletic events going on in Nevada, both regular season and tournament events. And the board’s acutely aware of that, and they’ll be considering it.”

The NCAA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. But ultimately, the Supreme Court could be what ends up forcing its hand.

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The Latest: Las Vegas ties record high of 117 degrees

PHOENIX (AP) — The Latest on an extreme heat wave in the Southwest U.S. (all times local):

6:05 p.m.

Las Vegas has tied its record high temperature of 117 degrees (47.2 degrees Celsius) as a weather system continues to bring scorching heat to the Southwest U.S.

The National Weather Service in Las Vegas says the record was tied at 4:07 p.m. Tuesday. Meteorologist Chris Outler says it is possible that the heat wave affecting the area could push thermometers to hit the same temperature again Wednesday.

The first day of summer brought some of the worst heat the Southwest U.S. has seen in years, forcing flights to be canceled, straining the power grid and making life miserable for some.

At McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, airlines cancelled at least one flight and delayed at least two others because of the heat.

The last time Las Vegas saw 117-degree temperatures was June 30, 2013.

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5:51 p.m.

Meteorologists say the temperature has topped out at 119 degrees in Phoenix as a stifling heat wave blanketing the Southwest U.S. brought some of the hottest weather in years.

Phoenix has been on watch for 120 degrees (49 degrees Celsius) for several days, a mark only reached three times in recorded history. But the high ended up a notch lower thanks to brief cloud cover over the city.

It will still go down a tie for the fourth-hottest day in recorded history in Phoenix.

Other cities in the Southwest hit the milestone or higher, including Yuma, Arizona, and Palm Springs, California. The California desert city reached 121.

The heat has caused flights to be canceled, strained the power grid and made life miserable for workers toiling outside.

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5:15 p.m.

For the second straight year, the people of Palm Springs, California, have been forced to face temperatures more than 20 degrees above the century mark.

On Tuesday, the last day of spring, Palm Springs hit 121 degrees (49 degrees Celsius). On the same date last year, the desert resort town reached 122. The highest temperature ever in Palm Springs is 123, which has happened four times, the last time in 1995.

Jim Brooks only had to walk 50 yards from his car to the Five Guys burger restaurant in Palm Springs. But he felt like he nearly melted in the process.

Brooks told the Desert Sun newspaper he didn’t think lunch would be worth it, and he was hitting himself for leaving his home in nearby Cathedral City where he can stay in the air conditioning.

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2:17 p.m.

Phoenix-area residents are setting a record demand for energy as scorching temperatures roll though the valley during the week’s punishing heat wave.

Salt River Project spokeswoman Kathleen Mascarenas says the company delivered a record amount of energy to customers Monday.

The company has reported there was a peak demand of 6,981 megawatts between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. that evening, stating it was a result of the extreme heat wave.

Mascarenas says though the heat creates a strain on the system, SRP prepares for these situations year-round.

SRP predicts it will likely reach a new peak demand Tuesday as temperatures continue to rise and forecasts expect a high of 120 degrees in Phoenix.

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12:30 p.m.

Authorities in Phoenix are trying to keep about 350 jail inmates housed in outdoor tents cool despite triple-digit heat.

Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office officials say the inmates are given unlimited access to ice water and iced towels.

They say the inmates’ physical condition is monitored every hour around the clock.

Sunblock for inmates also is available for purchase from vending machines on site.

The barbed-wire-surrounded Tent City compound of military-style barracks tents and cots opened in August 1993 as a way of easing jail overcrowding in Arizona’s most populous county.

In a cost-cutting move, two of the three Tent City yards were dismantled over the past two months, with about 400 inmates relocated to indoor jail facilities.

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11:50 a.m.

American Airlines says seven regional flights have been delayed and 43 have been canceled because of a heat wave threatening to bring 120 degrees to Phoenix.

The disruptions came Tuesday. The airline says it doesn’t expect any more issues Wednesday but officials will re-evaluate.

The National Weather Service forecasts a high of 120 degrees (49 degrees Celsius), which is has only hit three times in recorded history — the last time 22 years ago.

Arizona is seeing some of the most dramatic temperatures Tuesday, but the heat wave is being felt across Nevada and California, too.

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12:40 a.m.

The first day of summer is forecast to bring some of the worst heat the southwestern U.S. has seen in years.

The forecast calls for 119 degrees in Phoenix, where some flights have been cancelled because certain planes can’t take off in extreme heat.

Arizona is seeing the most stifling temperatures, but the wrath of the heat wave is being felt across Nevada and California as well.

Las Vegas was forecast to hit 117 (47 Celsius) on Tuesday and excessive heat warnings cover almost all of California.

Phoenix hit 118 degrees on Monday.

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Floyd Mayweather, Conor McGregor say their fight is on for Aug. 26 in Las Vegas

A fight between retired boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, and UFC star Conor McGregor appears set for August. (Steve Marcus / Associated Press)

LAS VEGAS – Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor posted on their social media Wednesday that, “It’s Official!!!” and “The Fight Is On,” hours after an Aug. 26 fight date at MGM Grand was approved by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Mayweather Promotions secured the Showtime-televised pay-per-view date, setting up a novel and much-talked-about showdown between the 40-year-old Mayweather (49-0), who retired as boxing’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter, and McGregor, the UFC’s only simultaneous two-division champion.

While Mayweather’s supreme skill, seen in his one-sided victory over Manny Pacquiao in 2015, is viewed as the top reason why McGregor is considered more than a 25/1 underdog, the brash Irishman’s verbal ability and striking power creates sufficient intrigue in selling a fight that could potentially challenge Mayweather-Pacquiao’s 4.6 million pay-per-view buys.

Thanks to months of taunts, McGregor goaded former UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo into pursuing a quick knockout in their 2015 meeting. Instead, Aldo rushed into a left-handed punch and was finished in a title-fight-record 13 seconds.

McGregor later avenged a loss to heavier Nate Diaz with sharp boxing skills, and he decked then-lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez repeatedly en route to finishing him in November.

Mayweather’s resume includes boxing sessions against the talented likes of world-class pugilists Oscar De La Hoya, Diego Corrales, Miguel Cotto, Canelo Alvarez and Pacquiao.

The deal came suddenly and surprisingly.

A late-night phone call from Mayweather advisor Leonard Ellerbe to re-attach the agenda item of the Aug. 26 date to Wednesday’s Nevada State Athletic Commission meeting was agreed upon , as was the slotting of the date.

MGM Grand was also the venue for the record-shattering $72 million live gate for Mayweather’s victory over Pacquiao.

Mayweather, his manager, Al Haymon, and UFC President Dana White were said to be still negotiating purse splits and pay-per-view percentages when McGregor first posted his news, creatively flashing a picture of Floyd Mayweather Sr., instead of his son in a side-by-side Twitter post.

While some insiders speculated the date was too soon to meet, given the talks and the necessary training time, both fighters have recently posted social-media photos of themselves back in the gym, and the date is ideal for McGregor, who has told White he’d like to fight once in the UFC, as well, before the end of the year.

While Mayweather, 40, has been sidelined since announcing his retirement following a victory over Andre Berto in September 2015, McGregor has been off since producing the striking clinic in winning the lightweight (155-pound) belt from Alvarez in November in the main event of the UFC’s first Madison Square Garden card.

McGregor has taken this year off to tend to the birth of his first child, a son.

The placement of the fight at MGM Grand might seem odd considering that T-Mobile across The Strip seats about 4,000 more fans, but a fight promotional expert said MGM Grand is ideal because it allows Mayweather and Haymon to dictate prices to ticket brokers.

“They know the formula, know what the supply and demand will be,” said the official, who declined to be identified because he’s employed by a rival promoter.

“By adding in 4,000 extra seats, the brokers might’ve tried to say, ‘We’re not paying that … ,’ but now they really have no choice.”

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Las Vegas judge sees endorsements slip, criticism rise after controversial mailer

Las Vegas Municipal Court judge Heidi Almase, left, and Las Vegas Municipal Court judge candidate Cara Campbell, right.
Municipal Court Judge Heidi Almase drew criticism from attorneys after sending out a mailer that suggested defense lawyers ‘keep criminals on the streets.’
This picture appeared on the Facebook page for Las Vegas Municipal Judge Heidi Almase’s re-election campaign. (Screenshot/Facebook)

Days before the Las Vegas city election, a municipal court judge has fired her re-election campaign manager, walked back a Facebook post, apologized for a highly criticized mailer and lost major political endorsements.

Municipal Court Judge Heidi Almase posted an apology on Facebook late Wednesday for a flier that attacked her re-election opponent.

The mailer, which contained an image of a man’s hand over the mouth of a young girl, questioned how Cara Campbell, a veteran Clark County prosecutor, could be an impartial judge, “when she is married to an attorney who keeps criminals on the streets?”

Campbell’s husband is Josh Tomsheck, a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor. Almase, who kept the name of her ex-husband and criminal defense attorney Cesar Almase, wrote that the mailer was sent “in the heat of a highly contested campaign, and after receiving multiple inflammatory mailers about my character.”

By Thursday afternoon, Almase had dropped her campaign manager, the second she’s had in this election season.

Two months after political consultant David Thomas dumped her, Almase said she fired Jennifer Barrier when she was unable to produce written proof that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had signed off on a doctored photo before it went up on social media.

Almase said she didn’t know the specific content before the photo was posted to Facebook on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, the post was deleted.

“It just got more and more uncomfortable for me,” Almase said. “It’s just one of those things, that it didn’t seem like a good idea.”

In a statement issued Thursday, Almase said she had “legitimate concern about the validity of the social media graphic.”

Almase also self-reported the incident “as well as the steps I have taken to maintain the integrity of the campaign process to general counsel for the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline,” she said.

Campbell’s campaign manager, Tom Letizia, called Almase “an emotional mess.”

“You can’t have somebody with that instability on the bench,” he said. “It’s a well-known fact that Heidi Almase has not been a good judge in this community. The judgment she has used is a true reflection of who she is as a person.”

Almase took responsibility for the mailer, but said Thursday she wishes she had run the idea by some people “not associated with the campaign.”

After Almase’s Facebook posts and mailer drew the ire of many in the defense bar, the Nevada Veteran’s Association and Citizens for an Ethical Judiciary Nevada switched their endorsements to Campbell.

Assemblyman and public defender Steve Yeager joined the social media discussion about Almase’s mailer.

“I thought (hoped) judges were supposed to understand and respect the Constitution…hard to imagine she could be fair to any criminal defendant with these beliefs,” he wrote in a Facebook comment. “Time for a change in that department.”

First Amendment lawyer Maggie McLetchie, who represents the Las Vegas Review-Journal and other media entities, tweeted that Almase “should send corrective mailers and not just post something on FB saying ‘other side made me do it.’ McLetchie also wrote that “Heidi is apparently so sexist that she thinks a married woman can’t think for herself.”

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter. Contact Jamie Munks at jmunks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @JamieMunksRJ on Twitter.

Almase versus Campbell

Several defense attorneys criticized Municipal Judge Heidi Almase, who is running for re-election against longtime prosecutor Cara Campbell, for campaign literature sent out this week.

Longtime criminal defense attorney JoNell Thomas also took to Facebook, saying she voted for Almase in the primary but would not vote for her in the general election.

“This goes way too far,” Thomas wrote. “Criminal defense attorneys do not ‘keep criminals on the street.’ We defend the constitution and we make sure the process is fair. For an experienced judge to make this kind of slanderous remark about an honorable profession is beyond shameful. Doubly shameful is the fact that you would judge a woman by her husband’s profession.”

Public defender John Piro asked others not to vote for Almase.

“Cara Campbell for Judge is truly the better choice in this race,” he wrote on Facebook. “The fact that Judge Almase would stoop to do such a mailer or would let anybody on her behalf put out a mailer like this shows she is unfit to be on the bench.”

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Discover Las Vegas For First Timers

Las Vegas is a city that is known by almost everyone around the world. But for those who are traveling there for the very first time, it is an experience that will likely be remembered for a lifetime. Anyone arriving in the city for the first time will want to cruise the strip. This can be done by car or on foot. But for any first-timer, they should take the time to get out and walk a bit and explore all that this city has to offer.

Gambling

Obviously, when anyone thinks about Los Vegas they think of gambling. But if this is your first time there you may feel a bit intimidated. Fortunately, many of the hotels offer free lessons for first-timers. It won’t take long and you’ll be as comfortable as all the rest whether it’s at the slots or the blackjack table.

How To Save Money On Your Trip

For most going to Las Vegas, it will be a time where they will want to spend most of their days and nights taking advantage of the entertainment, the gambling, and the food. Sleeping will be one of the things they will be least interested in. For this reason, it is recommended that first-timers spend the least amount of money on their sleeping accommodations.

There are special hotels with what are called bunk bed rooms which can be rented for less than $60 a night. These rooms are available to sleep up to 5 people comfortably and you will even have access to an adult-only pool.

What Else Can First-Timers Do Besides Gambling, Eating, And Drinking?

Surprisingly, Las Vegas has quite a few activities that are good for single’s and for families. There are golf activities with temperature controlled hitting bays, Cabanas, pools, and entertainment. There are rides and other activities that can be done by the whole family.

Las Vegas NHL team ready to deal before expansion draft

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Vegas is ready to deal.

George McPhee, the expansion Golden Knights’ general manager, had such a busy week of trade talks at the NHL’s pre-draft combine in Buffalo that he anticipates formally announcing several trades within the next few days.

"We’re far enough along with a few teams that my plan is to sit on the phone all day Monday, Tuesday to see what we can accomplish," McPhee said Saturday. "We’ve had some real good discussions and I expect some things will start happening next week."

That’s a little ahead of schedule for McPhee, who expected attending the combine to focus mostly on assessing the pool of prospects Vegas might consider selecting with its seven picks — starting with No. 6 overall — at the entry draft in Chicago on June 23-24.

Instead, McPhee couldn’t get through his hotel lobby without fielding trade offers in advance of the expansion draft June 21.

"It seemed the other day we go down to lunch, and I ran into a few GMs and the conversations started," McPhee said. "It’s been a busy week, but certainly productive."

The trades McPhee is referring to are those he anticipates to make in advance of the expansion draft, when Vegas will select one player off each of the 30 teams’ unprotected lists. Teams, however, can influence the Golden Knights’ decision on which player to pick or avoid by agreeing to trades beforehand.

That leaves McPhee juggling numerous trade options and opportunities to acquire players or draft picks as compensation to address the franchise’s short- and long-term needs.

McPhee’s objective is stockpiling draft picks and he didn’t rule out acquiring them in exchange for players with high-priced contracts from teams experiencing salary-cap issues.

"Most of the guys have been really forthright in what they want to do, who they’ll probably expose and who they’d like to protect," McPhee said. "And we’re trying to find ways to accommodate each other. We won’t be able to do that with everyone."

The Golden Knights have been the focus of attention and McPhee on every team’s speed dial because he holds most of the cards when it comes to the expansion draft.

Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treviling went so far as to jokingly refer to McPhee as being some sort of "puppeteer" during an interview with Canada’s TSN cable network this week.

McPhee laughed when informed of Treliving’s remark.

"I’ve been called worse," he said.

The expansion draft process opens on June 18, when the NHL will reveal the list of players available to the Golden Knights. The players will include pending restricted and unrestricted free agents, which Vegas can consider signing over a three-day period before the team submits its list of selections.

McPhee and his staff have spent much of the past year conducting a series of mock drafts to prepare for the draft. McPhee, however, acknowledged there’s no way of determining what strategy the team takes until the actual list is revealed.

"Until we see everything, it’s hard to know," he said.

McPhee doesn’t see a need to add a marquee player to generate a buzz and compete for attention in a city renowned for its entertainment excesses.

"The face of our franchise will be our logo. That’s the way we’re going to try and to things and be team-centric," he said. "We don’t feel the need to go get names."

That won’t halt the speculation, McPhee acknowledged, particularly regarding his ties to Washington as the Capitals former GM.

One rumor has Alex Ovechkin linked to Vegas.

"It doesn’t surprise me because of our relationship," McPhee said, before breaking into a laugh. "But I don’t think anything will be happening there. There’s too many jerseys with No. 8 on them in the seats in Washington from moving that player."

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