Al Davis Jr., the chief executive of the Oakland Raiders, has said in a sworn statement that over the years he has sold some of his club's allotment of Super Bowl tickets to Las Vegas gambling interests, according to National Football League sources.
Davis made the comment in answer to questions by NFL attorneys during a recent deposition in a suit over the league's opposition to his planned move of the Raiders to Los Angeles. In an earlier deposition, he charged that NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle and Los Angeles Rams owner Georgia Rosenbloom Frontiere were involved in a Super Bowl ticket scalping scheme. They have denied the allegation.
According to the league sources, Davis said that he sold between 75 and 100 tickets a year at their face value to gaming executives at the Riviera, Caesars Palace, the Hilton, Sands and Aladdin hotel-casinos.
League officials presume that the gambling executives passed along the tickets to the biggest spenders at their casinos. Sources say that the revelation in the deposition confirmed a long-held suspicion by other NFL owners that Davis was the source of tickets for well-known high-rollers who show up each year at the Super Bowl.
The NFL's tough questioning of one of its owners was highly unusual, sources say. NFL team owners normally are as discreet about their football family squabbles as they are about their profit statements.
But the sources say that the league attorneys began slinging mud at Davis after his allegations about Rozelle and Frontiere. The depositions have not been made public yet.
Davis couldn't be reached for comment, but his attorney Joseph L. Alioto Sr. said in a phone interview that a number of other owners also had sold their tickets to casino interests. "There's nothing wrong with that," he said. "What's the big deal? That's petty stuff in contrast to the substantial things that have been brought up in the suit about an elaborate black market in Super Bowl tickets."
Sources say that when league attorneys pressed Davis about whether he received anything from the casinos in return for the tickets, Davis' attorney objected to the line of questioning. The matter was not pursued. According to Alioto, Raider players got frontrow seats at Las Vegas shows in return for the sale of the tickets.
During the questioning, the league attorneys also asked Davis about his close friendship and business association with gambling executive Allen R. Glick.
Glick has been the subject of numerous investigations by various law-enforcement authorities during the past decade because of his alleged ties to organized crime. In 1979, Glick was forced to sell his interests in a number of Las Vegas casinos because gaming authorities there uncovered instances of skimming at those casinos.
The NFL attorneys reportedly also asked Davis how he came to acquire a 25 percent interest in a $25 million Oakland shopping mall for an investment of just $5,000.
According to a New York Daily News article last March, Eastmont Mall once was owned by the late Irving J. Kahn, who was a close associate of Teamsters Union boss Jimmy Hoffa. The paper said that Glick now controls the mall, which is being financed by a 4 percent loan from the Teamsters' Central States Pension Fund.
Alioto said that the stories about Davis' relationship with Glick are "old hat" and that Rozelle had investigated them fully and "cleared Davis completely."
Al LoCasale, a Davis aide in Oakland, said, "I'm surprised they didn't ask Al Davis about his relationship with Attila the Hun."
The league sources say that Davis, in his deposition, alleged that there is a conspiracy between Rozelle and Frontiere to keep the Raiders from moving to the Los Angeles Coliseum. Davis allegedly claimed that Frontiere and Rozelle want to keep the Raiders out so that they can share the profits from ticket scalping whenever the Super Bowl is played in Los Angeles.
In another part of Davis' deposition, the league attorneys reportedly asked him about his relationship with Jimmy (The Greek) Snyder, the oddsmaker and television personality whose syndicated column appears in a number of papers, including The Washington Post.
Other NFL club owners have long been angered because they believe that Davis has been a source of tips to Snyder that they claim the Oakland executive passes along to embarrass them.
Snyder and Davis are known to be extremely close, and Davis wears a jeweled bracelet with "Al" spelled in diamonds that was presented to him by Snyder in 1977 after the Raiders won the Super Bowl.
In the deposition, according to sources, Davis conceded that he had told Snyder in advance that running back Chuck Muncie was about to be traded by the New Orlean Saints to the San Diego Chargers. After he heard this, Snyder went on TV to reveal the then-secret negotiations to the annoyance of the two team owners involved in the trade.
The sources say that the league attorneys pressed these embarrassing, although apparently irrelevant questions, on Davis to warn him that things could get nasty if he continues to press his suit to move the Raiders to Los Angeles. The trial, which could take as long as two months, is scheduled to begin on Feb. 9 at U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
The pretrial fight between Davis and the league has highlighted a fact of sports life that any football fan already knows -- that the value of a Super Bowl ticket is far greater than even the dollar amount that scalpers charge.
NFL sources say that the question of whether to monitor the distribution of Super Bowl tickets comes up each year at the meeting of the NFL owners. But the owners have turned down any suggestion that the league office police the distribution of the valuable tickets.
The two teams in the Super Bowl game each get 22 1/2 percent of the available tickets. Each of the other clubs gets 1.2 percent, or between 800 and 1,000 tickets.
Theoretically at least, season ticket-holders of the 28 clubs get first crack at the tickets. But, in fact, the team owners decide which fans go to the Super Bowl.