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Pahrump joins excitement over Golden Knights’ success

Updated May 31, 2018 - 12:46 pm

Excitement over the Vegas Golden Knights reaching the Stanley Cup Finals during their inaugural season is not limited to Las Vegas. The number of Golden Knights T-shirts and car stickers around Pahrump is evidence that the town has embraced the first professional sports team in Southern Nevada.

More evidence can be found in the sports book at the Pahrump Nugget Hotel &Gambling Hall, where bartender Donna Price said playoff games have been great for business.

“The other day it was just as busy as for the Super Bowl,” Price said Sunday as Game 5 of the Western Conference finals between the Golden Knights and Winnipeg Jets aired on the big screen behind her while she sported a Marc-Andre Fleury jersey. “The whole place was packed. People were screaming.”

The notion of a 33-year-old French-Canadian goalie such as Fleury becoming a huge star in the desert seemed unlikely a year ago, but favorable rules in the NHL expansion draft and some smart moves by management have turned the Golden Knights into nothing short of a regional phenomenon.

While the atmosphere at the Pahrump Nugget was far more sedate Sunday, as the noon start time held the crowd down to about a dozen, Price said weeknight games have been a very different scene.

“This last week, I had the whole place packed,” said Price, who said she was a San Jose Sharks fan when she lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. “It was standing-room only.”

The Golden Knights have been good for the sports books as well. In Pahrump, William Hill Race and Sports Book operates books at the Pahrump Nugget and Saddle West Hotel and Casino, along with sports betting kiosks at Gold Town Casino and Lakeside Casino and RV Park.

“Absolutely, the Golden Knights have contributed to an uptick in business,” said Eddi Kellerman, William Hill’s district manager for Pahrump and Primm. “More casual bettors are being drawn in by the excitement of the Knights’ success, and more people are certainly coming to enjoy the games at the Nugget.”

Hockey might be a distant fourth in popularity among the major sports nationally, but in Pahrump the Golden Knights have upstaged LeBron James.

“This time of year, basketball playoffs are usually on the “big screen,” Kellerman said. “During these playoffs, however, the crowds have been asking both William Hill and casino staff to program more and more TVs to show the Knights.”

Kellerman suggested that the Golden Knights’ impact on William Hill’s business might go beyond fans placing bets on the local team’s games.

“It’s hard to quantify, but there also seems to be a trickle-down effect,” he said. “More bettors are watching the other hockey games and betting them as well. More bettors are becoming familiar with hockey in general due to the excitement generated from our home team.”

Since the NHL announced expansion to Las Vegas, football’s Oakland Raiders won approval to move to the city, the San Antonio Stars of women’s basketball moved in and became the Las Vegas Aces, a new minor-league soccer team began play this year, and the Las Vegas 51s minor-league baseball team will be rebranding themselves as they move into a new ballpark in Summerlin next year.

All of which could have meant the Golden Knights had a narrow window in which to make an impact on the suddenly vibrant Las Vegas professional sports scene. Their instant success took care of that.

“It’s very cool to see legitimate fandom spreading and Pahrump joining in on the fun,” Kellerman said. “The Knights are Pahrump’s team, too, and our bettors are enthusiastic and diehard in their support.”

All of that was neatly quantified by Price.

“This bought me a new car,” she said.

Contact Sports Editor Tom Rysinski at trysinski@pvtimes.com On Twitter: @pvtimes

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