(Reuters) – The NHL is reportedly ready to bet on an expansion franchise in Las Vegas, a move that would make the league the first to put a major professional sports team in the resort city known primarily for gambling.
An Associated Press report on Tuesday that was later confirmed by the Las Vegas Review-Journal said putting a team in Las Vegas was a “done deal” after the recommendation of the NHL’s executive committee and provided organizers pay a $500 million fee.
Both reports sourced two people who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to reveal the committee’s recommendation.
When asked by Reuters to comment on the news of expansion, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in an email that the league had no comment and would not confirm the report.
The NHL’s Board of Governors are scheduled to meet on June 22 in Las Vegas where they are expected to hold a formal vote on expansion bids from Las Vegas and Quebec City.
The average NHL team is worth $505 million, according to a survey released by Forbes last November.
If owners vote to approve billionaire businessman Bill Foley’s bid for a franchise in Las Vegas, it would be the NHL’s 31st team and mark the league’s first expansion since 2000 when Columbus and Minnesota began play.
“We’ve grown up,” Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It’s an exciting step for us but I’m waiting for the Board of Governors to approve it before I start to really celebrate.”
Las Vegas and Quebec City were the two cities who submitted official applications for expansion when the NHL opened its formal expansion process last year.
The bid from Quebec City, which lost its beloved Nordiques to Denver in 1995, now looks like it will be put on hold due largely to concerns about the strength of the Canadian dollar.
Canada’s seven NHL teams earn ticket and concession revenue in Canadian dollars while salaries, which account for half of the league’s hockey-related revenue, are paid in U.S. dollars.
Canada’s currency has appreciated more than 10 percent since January and settled at C$1.2853 to the U.S. dollar, or 77.80 U.S. cents, on Tuesday. That’s well below early 2013 levels when it last traded at a premium to its American counterpart.
A spokesman from Quebecor Inc, the telecommunications and media company behind the Canadian bid, told Reuters it would not comment on what it called “rumors.”
The NHL has previously said it received numerous expressions of interest about joining the NHL over the past several years from potential markets and ownership groups.
The earliest any expansion team could join the NHL would be the 2017-18 season.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Larry Fine/Steve Keating)