Mr. Goodman, who wasn’t afraid to use the word “whack” while 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 lawmaker willing to call out the leagues’ rigid opposition to sports gambling. He would point out, correctly, that some team owners had once been bookmakers and that billions of dollars were wagered on games.
“You have that hypocrisy, and Goodman certainly seized it,” said John L. Smith, a longtime journalist in Nevada and the author of “Of Rats and Men: Oscar Goodman’s Life From Mob Mouthpiece to Mayor of Las Vegas.”
“He has a certain anarchy about him,” Mr. Smith added. “He sees that and wants to break that up.”
Mr. Goodman trolled the leagues in his flamboyant style. He sat courtside at basketball games with a showgirl on each arm. He publicly chastised the N.F.L.’s commissioner at the time, Paul Tagliabue, after he blocked Las Vegas from advertising on television during the Super Bowl in 2003. Mr. Goodman dropped by Major League Baseball’s winter meetings with showgirls and a martini glass, hugging the former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda and other baseball luminaries and telling reporters that Las Vegas was ready for a team.
The leagues were not impressed. Mr. Goodman recalled how in 1999 he visited the National Basketball Association’s offices in New York and David Stern, who was the commissioner, told him that Las Vegas would get a basketball team only over his dead body.
“Basically, we ended up like everything else in my life, in a fight,” Mr. Goodman said. “I said, ‘You want to know something, Commissioner: Before I became mayor, I represented reputed mobsters, and I could arrange that.’”