By StevePete Rose to Head Investor Group Seeking NBA Franchise in Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS, NV -- On the eve of the NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas, a group of investors headed by baseball legend Pete Rose has announced its intention to bring professional basketball to the desert city.
(Left) Is there a Rosey outlook for pro basketball in Las Vegas? Charlie Hustle is betting on it.
The group, "Bet on Vegas," hopes to have a team in Las Vegas within the next three years, either through league expansion or by luring an existing franchise to relocate. The team, tentatively to be known as the Vegas Hustlers, would play at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV) until a new arena on the Las Vegas Strip could be constructed.
Speaking before a packed press conference at Caesar’s Palace, Rose downplayed talk that the NBA would be hesitant about putting a team in the nation’s gambling capital.
"Some people will say that a pro team in Las Vegas is a roll of the dice, a crap shoot, a spin of the wheel" Rose said. "But Vegas is the most exciting city in the world, and basketball is the most exciting game there is. It’s a natural match. I’d lay you five-to-one that we’ll get a team here, and I like those odds. We've also begun discussions with Jerry Tarkanian to see if he'll come out of retirement to coach the team. Right now over-under is at 17."
Rose, whose notorious gambling habits earned him a lifetime ban from Major League Baseball, might seem an unusual choice to head the investor group. But, according to General Partner Mark Croupier, several points were key factors in the decision.
"Pete Rose is as synonymous with the business of Las Vegas as Wayne Newton," Croupier said. "Let's face it - 'Charlie Hustle' had his feet in both worlds - sports and gambling. Vegas is really just an industry town, and Pete knows the industry better than anyone. Sure, the league usually goes for things like local ownership, but this is a case where Pete has an interest in this city as deep as that of any local businessman. Maybe more so."
League spokesman Jefferson McNeil said the Bet on Vegas application would be given due consideration by the league’s expansion committee. "We’ll evaluate their application just like any other prospective ownership group," McNeil said. "Whether it’s Pete Rose, or Tony Soprano, or any notable figure, they’ll all be looked at in the same way." Unlike Rose, McNeil refused to say what the odds of approval might be. Other members of the Bet on Vegas investor group, according to a press release handed out at the conference, are Benny (Big Hands) Molano, Hank (Cement Head) Cardinalli, and Frankie (The Fish) Volgiano.
Rose said he looks forward to pouring all his efforts into obtaining the franchise.
"We’re in this to win," Rose told reporters, while signing baseballs from a large bin near the podium. "You can take that to the bank. Once we put our cards on the table, the NBA can’t keep us out of the game. Pete Rose's job is to show you that the NBA is a good bet. And if Pete Rose doesn’t know about good bets, who does?" Rose refused, however, to reveal to reporters if he had ever bet on baseball.