LAS VEGAS — Expect the news to break sometime Monday afternoon. The storyline is no secret, though, because NFL commissioner Roger Goodell tipped us off a day early.
So did Jerry Jones. The owner of the Dallas Cowboys strolled through a hotel in Phoenix on Sunday and essentially said he’s betting on the Oakland Raiders becoming the Las Vegas Raiders.
“It’s gonna be an exciting day for Vegas,” Jones said.
Goodell, who only recently became a fan of Las Vegas, made a similar prediction. The commish put on his handicapper hat when asked if Raiders owner Mark Davis will get the required 24 votes of approval from 32 owners to relocate his franchise to the Strip.
“I think we will have a vote, and I think we will have a positive vote,” Goodell said. “I think we are in pretty good shape.”
Never say never again. For many years, when we speculated on Las Vegas someday becoming the home of a major league franchise, we said the NBA, NHL and MLB were possibilities. But never would we get the NFL, mainly because of its anti-gambling stance.
About a year ago, a prominent bookmaker laughed and said he would make the odds against a Las Vegas-NFL marriage 1 million-to-1. Fortunately for him, he did not post those odds and take action.
The Raiders will win the right to relocate to Las Vegas, and the votes will be cast Monday at the NFL’s annual spring meeting. The only mystery is how many, if any, owners will vote against it or abstain. An educated guess is Davis will get 28 “yes” votes, including his own.
Jones is a powerful ally of Davis and Las Vegas. The same goes for New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke. Goodell gradually warmed up to the idea, too.
Everyone has a price. As for Goodell and the NFL, that price is $750 million — the tax dollars the Nevada Legislature approved for the construction of a $1.9 billion domed stadium near the Strip. The league was not getting that type of financial commitment in California, not in Oakland and not in San Diego for the Chargers.
The $750 million passed with lawmakers in October only because billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson used his political influence to force it through. Adelson wanted an ownership stake in the Raiders, but when it became obvious that was not in the cards, he folded his hand and left the table in late January.
The Las Vegas Raiders are about to become reality in large part due to Adelson. He’s gone now, but he’s not missed. Davis and Raiders president Marc Badain had a solid contingency plan. Bank of America stepped up to fill the void left by Adelson, who originally committed $650 million toward the stadium.
Even if this was not the way he scripted it, Davis played his hand perfectly.
The financial plan was the biggest hurdle to clear. The stigma attached to legal sports wagering in Nevada turned into a tiny hurdle, due in large part to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who has led the campaign for the legalization of sports wagering on a national level. Silver has become a powerful ally for Las Vegas.
When the NBA and NHL, which is opening for business on the Strip this fall, said Vegas was OK, the NFL decided this was the right time to get in line.
While some NFL owners still have concerns about the gambling issue and the smaller market size (Las Vegas is the nation’s No. 40 TV market) compared to the Bay Area, those minor concerns are not deal breakers and the $750 million in public financing is the major deal maker.
In an interview with VSiN, national radio host John Tournour (@JTTheBrick on Twitter) said he believes the Raiders could prove to be a more successful business venture in Las Vegas than the Rams and Chargers will be in Los Angeles.
“If the Raiders end up here in Vegas, they will be the most successful sports team in history,” said Tournour, who lives in Las Vegas and is a longtime broadcaster for the Raiders. “The Raiders are a global brand.”
But the Raiders have been strapped with arguably the NFL’s worst stadium situation in Oakland, and the league has agreed the team’s future will be brighter on the Strip.
The Raiders, off a 12-4 season and positioned to continue winning with quarterback Derek Carr leading a promising team, have received phenomenal fan support in Oakland. How long will that last?
The team will play in Oakland this season and likely again in 2018 before Davis has to make a decision. With the Las Vegas stadium not set to open until 2020, when will he move the franchise to his desert paradise?
“Mark Davis believes he ran out of options to have a great stadium in Oakland,” Tournour said. “The Oakland fans are devastated by this. This is ripping their hearts out. Those fans deserve to see this team make a Super Bowl run in Oakland. I believe the Raiders are in a window to win the Super Bowl in the next two seasons.”
The Raiders, the silver and black outlaws of the NFL, are coming to Las Vegas. It’s a perfect fit. Roger Goodell, believe it or not, and Jerry Jones are betting on it.
We never thought this historic day could be reality until recently. But things change, and change sometimes happens seemingly overnight. The NFL-in-Vegas proposition became a favorite when $750 million was pushed into the middle of the table.
Never say never again. Monday is when that 1 million-to-1 futures ticket cashes and we settle all of our side bets.