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

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

After a sip of the diffuse elixir, 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 evoke his heyday portraying gangsters like Meyer Lansky and Tony Spilotro, looking took down the FBI and appeared as himself in films like “Casino.” He still plays the role well. Goodman, 84, has no problem giving bare-knuckle opinions on everything from graffiti and gambling to prostitution and homelessness.

However, Goodman is more than just an “only in Las Vegas” relic. During his 12 years as mayor starting in 1999, he also helped boost the city’s ramshackle downtown, which long ago was eclipsed by the Strip a few miles to the south. However, one thing he was unable to do while in office was persuade America’s major sports leagues to establish a team in Sin City. Try as he might, the leagues could not convince themselves that the city’s connections to the game were not a threat to the integrity of their games.

That stigma disappeared in 2018 when the Supreme Court struck down a federal law banning sports betting outside of Nevada. The floodgates opened, and even the National Football League, which had rejected Goodman the most, now calls Las Vegas his home. The Raiders began playing here in 2020 and the city has since hosted the league’s Pro Bowl and draft.

The greatest achievement will come on February 11, when Las Vegas will host Super Bowl LVIII between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers.

Goodman regrets not being in office when professional sports arrived, including the National Hockey League’s Golden Knights in 2017 and last year’s announcement that Major League Baseball had given the Oakland Athletics permission to move To the city. But he was vicariously excited to see his wife, Carolyn, who succeeded him and remains mayor of Las Vegas, attend the inauguration.

“You want to be successful at everything you try,” Goodman said of his efforts. “But look, I’m a realist. “I didn’t make it, but I was very lucky that my wife could do what I couldn’t do.”

What Goodman did was tell anyone who would listen that the leagues were prudish charlatans. Professional sports, he said, benefit from gambling because fans become more interested in games when money is at stake. He told league commissioners, concerned about the gambling’s influence on players and coaches, that Las Vegas was the safest place to gamble because casinos and sports books were highly regulated.

“It was a joke,” Goodman said of the leagues’ resistance to the city.

He didn’t come to the sport by chance. By his own account, he’ll bet on anything that moves, including, apparently, cockroaches. Before ordering his drink, he told a visitor that he had bet on the two losers (the Chiefs and the Detroit Lions) to cover the spread in the NFL conference championship games. (He won both bets.) Then Jonathan Jossel, who runs the Plaza Hotel, home of Oscar’s Steakhouse, stopped by to give Mr. Goodman $150 in cash, his share of the winning fantasy football team.

“I can’t risk owing this man a dime,” Jossel joked.

Bathed in the neon lights of the signs outside the restaurant, Goodman said he recognized how the Runnin’ Rebels of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, unified the city when they were one of the top men’s college basketball teams in the late aughts. 1980s and early. 1990s. In his view, Las Vegas needed professional sports teams not to boost the economy (as many mayors claim when trying to persuade taxpayers to subsidize stadiums for the teams) but to generate buzz and signal that Las Vegas was a world class city.

“The truth is, he really has vision,” Carolyn Goodman said of her husband’s drive to attract a team. “I know that in part he was selfish because he loves sports and, of course, he loves to bet. The way he supported our romance during college was by playing poker.”

Goodman, who wasn’t afraid to use the word “coup” when he was mayor and, in a nod to a particularly memorable scene from “The Godfather,” still keeps a plastic horse head in his office, was a rare legislator willing to denounces the leagues’ rigid opposition to sports betting. He would point out, correctly, that some team owners had once been bookmakers and had billions of dollars bet on games.

“There is that hypocrisy, and Goodman certainly took advantage of it,” said John L. Smith, a veteran Nevada journalist and author of “Of Rats and Men: Oscar Goodman’s Life From Mob Mouthpiece to Mayor of Las Vegas.”

“There’s a certain anarchy to it,” Smith added. “He sees that and he wants to break away from it.”

Goodman toured the leagues with his flamboyant style. He sat on the court at basketball games with a showgirl on each arm. He publicly rebuked then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue after he blocked Las Vegas television advertising during the Super Bowl in 2003. Mr. Goodman toured Major League Baseball’s winter meetings with showgirls and a martini glass, hugging the former Los Angeles. Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda and other baseball luminaries told reporters that Las Vegas was ready for a team.

The leagues were not impressed. Goodman recalled how in 1999 he visited the National Basketball Association offices in New York and David Stern, who was the commissioner, told him that Las Vegas would have a basketball team just over his dead body.

“We basically ended up, like everything else in my life, in a fight,” Goodman said. “I said, ‘You want to know something, Commissioner: Before I was mayor, I represented reputed mobsters and I could fix that.’”

All those disputes now seem like ancient history, as gambling commercials air on television during game broadcasts, fans bet using cellphone apps and Las Vegas prepares to host the country’s most famous sporting event.

As Las Vegas’ first spouse, Goodman could easily get a seat in a luxury box at Allegiant Stadium, where the Super Bowl will be played. But after years of fighting leagues, he’s not interested in fighting traffic to rub shoulders with the same people who pressured him. Instead, he’ll see you in his living room with his family and an ample supply of Bombay Sapphire gin.

If Raiders owner “Mark Davis” called me and said, ‘Please sit with me,’ I wouldn’t go,” Goodman said. “I love being at home with my wife and having the kids stop by. I am the happiest boy in the world. I get drunk and see 44 players on the field at the same time. I mean, it’s my favorite day of the year.”

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