Old and busted: Using Los Angeles as a way to extort new NFL stadiums. New hotness: Using Las Vegas to double down. Oakland Raiders owner Marc Davis ended up on the losing end of the league’s annual owners meeting this winter, but he’s ready to roll the dice on a risky move that might get the rest of the owners to either shut him down — or shut him up with a better deal:
Mark Davis was beaming as he posed with fans behind a black and silver “Las Vegas Raiders” banner. He made a few jokes before delivering a $500 million commitment to a new stadium in the city for his team.
Then the owner of the Raiders got serious about the prospects of getting fellow NFL owners to allow him to move from Oakland to a city the league has long shunned because it has legal sports betting.
“Let’s give them an offer they can’t refuse,” Davis said. “They’re going to approve it based on that.”
Little more than an idea a few months ago, the possibility of the Raiders moving to Las Vegas inched a bit closer to reality Thursday when Davis appeared before a stadium commission to not only pledge to move the Raiders to the city, but put $500 million into the $1.4 billion facility that would house the team.
If Davis wants to make other NFL owners feel better about locating in Sin City, quoting The Godfather probably isn’t the way to do it. Like other professional sports leagues, the NFL has an arm’s-length relationship with Las Vegas and its casinos. They may enjoy the buzz and excitement that comes with legal sports books, but any closer connection than the betting line in the sports pages could create suspicions of corruption, point-shaving, and fixing games. That’s why the last professional football game in Las Vegas took place 52 years ago as an exhibition only, and involved AFL teams prior to the merger and not the NFL.
Those AFL teams, the AP reminds us, were Houston … and Oakland.
Say what you will about the chances of getting 24 owners to sign off on this move — but at least Davis got the attention he wanted back home:
Wait until Davis tells Oakland, it’s not personal — it’s strictly business. I don’t like moving … it’s a big expense. Despite the report from CBS’s Bay Area affiliate, it seems doubtful that Davis can get 24 owners — “new school” or not — to marry the league to legalized gambling interests in Las Vegas, no matter how nice a stadium the Raiders can get. A better question will be whether it matters. Davis’ father Al moved the team once without league approval, and ended up besting the NFL in an anti-trust suit in 1982. Davis may still be sore over the results of the owner’s meeting earlier this year, and may decide to move the team again without league approval. That could set up another court showdown, and this time the NFL might have more of a case of real damage if it decides to argue about the association with legalized gambling that such a move would force on the other owners.
It’s more likely that this is just a way to pressure Oakland officials to cough up more cash for a better stadium deal. If that doesn’t work, though, don’t bet against the Las Vegas Raiders taking the field in 2020.