The concept of the Las Vegas Raiders is, by some appearances, a full-speed-ahead proposition. Public funding for a new stadium in Vegas is in place and Raiders owner Mark Davis is talking about his desire, his eagerness and his commitment to get his franchise there.
But, in reality, the prospects of a future move to Vegas by the Raiders falls into the not-so-fast category. The relocation, once formally proposed by Davis, would have to be ratified by his fellow NFL franchise owners. And among that group, some wariness remains.
Several people familiar with the owners’ views said this week there are potential problems with a Raiders’ move to Las Vegas, not all of them related to the city’s status as the nation’s gambling capital. The relatively small size of the Las Vegas market would be a significant concern to some owners, according to those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because no formal relocation application has been filed.
“I think in general we don’t like to leave big markets for small markets,” a high-ranking official with one NFL team said. “That’s as big as anything. I think most people are not crazy about that.”
That person said it’s “too early to tell” if such a relocation application would be ratified by the owners. A proposed Raiders’ move to Vegas would require 24 votes in favor among the 32 league owners for approval.
“Most of us would prefer they stay in Oakland,” the high-ranking official said. “If that’s not possible and we get to January and the Las Vegas deal is all there is, we’ll have to consider it.”
Those views were echoed by another person familiar with the league’s inner workings. That person said it’s too soon to know how the owners would vote but added it would take only a few owners with concerns about the market size, a few more wary about gambling issues and a few others with other reasons to reach the nine objections required to block a move.
The owners are in Houston for their regularly scheduled fall meeting Tuesday and Wednesday and that person said that, while the Raiders’ situation undoubtedly will be a major talking point outside the meeting room, it will come up inside of it only within the context of an agenda item on stadium-related updates.
“This is just not ripe for this meeting,” that person said.
Under league rules, the Raiders cannot file a relocation application until after the season. By then, there could be clarity about the related situation of the San Diego Chargers.
The Chargers have an option to join the Rams in Los Angeles, given to them by the owners earlier this year when the Rams’ stadium proposal in Inglewood, Calif., was chosen over the joint project by the Chargers and Raiders in Carson. The Chargers are seeking public financing for a new stadium in San Diego and that measure is on the November ballot. If the Chargers get their stadium, remain in San Diego and decline their L.A. option, the option to join the Rams passes to the Raiders.
Davis has said he would not be interested.
“I made a commitment to the governor of Nevada,” he said in a televised interview, according to CSN Bay Area.
On Friday, the Nevada legislature narrowly approved a proposal to use $750 million in public funding to build a $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat domed stadium in Las Vegas that would house the Raiders and the UNLV football team. The deal was signed Monday by Nevada’s Republican governor, Brian Sandoval.
The family of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson would contribute $650 million and the Raiders’ contribution would be $500 million. The Raiders would continue to play in Oakland while the Vegas stadium would be under construction, according to Davis.
“I’d like to be calling it home right now,” Davis said, according to CSN Bay Area. “But we’ll see. It’s a process.”
Indeed it is. And if the owners’ L.A. deliberations are any indication, it is a process that could be resolved with a flurry of last-minute negotiations.
The NFL had two decades to plot its return to Los Angeles. The owners had months to consider the competing stadium proposals by the Rams in Inglewood and by the Chargers and Raiders in Carson. But the decision came down to a dramatic final round of deliberations in January in which the owners rejected a pro-Carson recommendation by their own L.A. committee, opting for the lavishness of the Inglewood plan put forth by Rams owner Stan Kroenke.
Some within the league wonder if L.A. still could be an option for the Raiders, despite what Davis says, if the Chargers stay put. That would eliminate the need for the owners to weigh the attractiveness of the Vegas stadium proposal against any reservations about market size and gambling connections.
The NFL long has held gambling at arm’s length, opposing measures to legalize sports betting elsewhere in the country. But it is unclear whether that remains a significant consideration for many owners. At an owners’ meeting in May, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the owners would be thorough in studying whether they regard Las Vegas as a viable market for a team.
“There’s a great deal of work that needs to be done for ownership to make that kind of consideration,” Goodell said then. “There’s a variety of factors — the stadium itself, what the stadium proposal is, the market itself and market studies. We obviously in Las Vegas have been well documented that we’d have to consider the impact from a gambling standpoint. All of those things are an ownership decision and until we have more information, it’s just pure speculation at this point in time.”