Las Vegas Raiders? Though it would break the hearts of many die-hard Oakland Raiders fans, Sin City could be a fit for the team’s outlaw, eye-patch reputation, said Jay Kornegay, vice president of race and sports for the Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino.
Initially, Vegas insiders viewed the idea of the Raiders moving to the desert city as a joke or a ploy to “get a better deal elsewhere,” Kornegay said. But after an April 28 news conference in Las Vegas where Raiders owner Mark Davis said he is willing to spend a half billion dollars as part of a deal for a new stadium in the city, Kornegay believes “this is something that could happen.”
“This is the closest we’ve been to landing a major sports team in this town,” Kornegay said.
There’s potentially big money behind it, with Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson pledging his support, but the National Football League has long opposed teams playing in Nevada because of the potential taint of legalized gambling.
In recent years, however, the NFL has grown comfortable with some types of wagering: 28 of its 32 teams have sponsorship or marketing deals with daily fantasy sports companies, namely FanDuel and DraftKings. Though the companies deny that daily fantasy is gambling because skill is a factor, there’s big money being won and lost on these sites every day.
The NFL has long opposed the idea of basing a team in any state where sports betting is legal, but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell did not dismiss the possibility of the Raiders moving to Las Vegas.
“We made it clear the Raiders could consider alternatives, and so they’re exploring their options,” Goodell told Chris Berman on an ESPN broadcast last week. “They’ll have to get 24 of 32 owners to approve whatever their alternative is, and they’ll consider all the factors, including the gambling association, including the new stadium (and) including the market.”
Ultimately, Kornegay believes Nevada’s gambling issue is a “small speed bump” that wouldn’t impede the Raiders if they get a strong stadium package and the support of NFL owners. Sports betting is inevitable, “so we might as well regulate it and police it.” Plus, a Raiders move to Vegas would “only mean truckloads of money for the NFL,” Kornegay said.
If the Raiders do make the move, “it’s inevitable that Las Vegas would host a Super Bowl,” Kornegay said, adding, “Las Vegas is built for the main stage.”
Michael Shapiro (www.michaelshapiro.net) is the author of “A Sense of Place.” Twitter: @shapirowrites