The Oakland Raiders were the odd team out in the NFL’s Los Angeles vote early this year, with the St. Louis Rams getting the go-ahead to move to Southern California and the San Diego Chargers getting first dibs on joining them should their one-year attempt at a new stadium fall flat. At the time, the thought was that the Raiders would soldier on in their decrepit stadium at least for this season and then hope the Chargers stay in San Diego, clearing the way for the Raiders’ move south.
Or owner Mark Davis could go ahead and move the Raiders to Las Vegas, which it seems he clearly wants to do.
Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News reported Monday that Davis is prepared to commit to a Las Vegas move if a government committee there approves financing for a $1.3 billion domed stadium near the Las Vegas Strip. The Raiders owner will be in Las Vegas on Thursday for a meeting of the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee, which could recommend that the stadium be built later this summer, with two-thirds of the funds coming from taxes on tourists.
“It’s huge because the committee sees [the Raiders] are serious,” a source close to the situation, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Bonsignore. “And if [the committee] approves the funding, there will be no stopping the train.”
The Las Vegas proposal — even if it hasn’t gotten past the idea stage yet — is likely far more appetizing to Davis than anything happening in Oakland, where civic leaders are wary about spending a dime on a new NFL stadium (MLB’s Oakland Athletics also want a new stadium of their own). In February, the Raiders signed a one-year lease extension to play at Oakland Coliseum, with two one-year team options following that. But with the Raiders having zero immediate options besides staying in Oakland, the local government entity that owns the stadium more than tripled their annual rent, from $975,000 to $3.5 million.
So it should be no surprise that Davis and the Raiders are actively courting Las Vegas, especially if the locals will foot two-thirds of the bill for a team that’s one of the NFL’s lowest-performing clubs in terms of revenue. Plus, the league apparently would not be as against the move as one might expect, given the NFL’s strict stance against the legalization of sports gambling. As Bonsignore notes, Commissioner Roger Goodell said earlier this year that Las Vegas’s longtime embrace of legalized sports gambling wouldn’t necessarily be a relocation deal-breaker.
The move also would likely find support from a number of team owners who would no longer need to worry about the Raiders relocating to nearby areas, namely San Antonio (to the relief of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Houston Texans owner Bob McNair) or Southern California (Rams owner Stan Kroenke and Chargers owner Dean Spanos).
“I think it would be a mistake to just write Las Vegas off,” a high-ranking league official told Bonsignore. “It’s all predicated on getting the financing in order, but if they do, considering the Raiders brand and how well it could play in Las Vegas and all the various other dots that can be connected, the Raiders would have a very compelling argument to make.”