Don’t Bet on This Former Vegas Mayor Being at the Super Bowl

It was just after 4 p.m. on a recent weekday, and Oscar Goodman, the mob lawyer turned Las Vegas mayor turned civic cheerleader, was sipping perhaps his first Hizzoner of the day.

The drink — made with Bombay Sapphire gin, more Bombay Sapphire gin and a slice of jalapeño pepper, served in a large martini glass — is not just Mr. Goodman’s favorite social lubricant. It’s a homage to a faded version of Las Vegas that he has spent decades celebrating and trying to keep alive.

After a sip of the fuzzy elixir, Mr. Goodman settled into a booth at Oscar’s Steakhouse, an upscale restaurant in downtown Las Vegas, where he is paid to lend his name and conjure up his heyday representing gangsters like Meyer Lansky and Tony Spilotro, staring down the F.B.I. and appearing as himself in movies like “Casino.” He still plays the part well. Mr. Goodman, 84, has no trouble dishing out bare-knuckle opinions about everything from graffiti and gambling to prostitution and the homeless situation.

Mr. Goodman is more than merely an “only in Vegas” relic, however. During his 12 years as mayor starting in 1999, he also helped boost the city’s tattered downtown, which long ago was eclipsed by the Strip a few miles south. Yet one thing he was unable to do while in office was persuade America’s biggest sports leagues to put a team in Sin City. Try as he did, the leagues could not be convinced that the city’s connections to gambling were not a threat to the integrity of their games.

That stigma vanished in 2018 when the Supreme Court overturned the federal law banning sports wagering outside Nevada. The floodgates opened, and even the National Football League, which had pushed back the hardest against Mr. Goodman, now calls Las Vegas home. The Raiders began playing here in 2020, and the city has since hosted the Pro Bowl and the league’s draft.

On Feb. 11 will come the crowning achievement, when Las Vegas is the site of Super Bowl LVIII between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers.

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