Raiders-to-Vegas talk taking on greater reality? On Monday, national sports reports indicated Raiders owner Mark Davis is ready to commit to Southern Nevada if the proposed billion-dollar stadium is built.
When the Colts moved overnight via Mayflower trucks from Baltimore in 1984, Indianapolis had a new domed stadium waiting. If the Raiders set out to move from Oakland in the near future, will Las Vegas have a new domed stadium waiting?
The Raiders’ potential relocation to Las Vegas is a topic that excites dreamers and invites skeptics. We used to say the NFL never would do business here because of legal sports wagering. Never say never again.
While the betting barrier is slowly being broken down, talks to build a football stadium are picking up. Without putting a time frame on it, I proposed this question to six oddsmakers: What are the odds against the Raiders landing in Las Vegas?
“I think it’s 100 percent a perfect fit,” William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said. “I hope it happens. But I have no idea. It could be 2-1 or two zillion to one.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, speaking at the owners meetings in March, did not slam the door on Las Vegas. At every opportunity in the past, he slammed the door. So, to paraphrase Lloyd Christmas, he was telling us there’s a chance. Still, this is not a “Dumb and Dumber” remake, and we are not naive about leverage plays and posturing.
Davis is expected to appear at a Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee meeting Thursday at UNLV, and Goodell gave him the go-ahead. A plan to build a 65,000-seat stadium on Tropicana Avenue near the Strip will be discussed. The proposed cost, according to Las Vegas Sands Corp., is $1.3 billion. The Raiders currently play at O.co Coliseum, which can be called a sewage pit because there are facts to back it up.
It’s healthy to dream, but they say the devil is in the details for a reason. There are reasons to be skeptical. How will the stadium be financed? What about the gambling issue? Would the required 24 of 32 NFL owners vote in favor of it?
“I still think it’s an extreme long shot to actually happen,” said Sunset Station sports book director Chuck Esposito, who put the odds at 300-1. “I’m going to say the Phillies have a better shot to win the World Series in the next three years.”
Philadelphia’s odds to win the World Series this year opened at 300-1 and have plummeted to 500-1. But, again, this is about the Raiders and Las Vegas.
“I don’t see it happening as long as Goodell is the commissioner. He has made it abundantly clear he wants no part of us,” said Golden Nugget sports book manager Aaron Kessler, who is pulling the fictional prop “off the board.”
Now it’s time for more optimistic opinions.
“The whole thing really just hinges upon that stadium. It’s somewhat reasonable if that stadium gets passed and things are moving forward,” Westgate sports book manager Jeff Sherman said. “No stadium, zero percent chance. If a stadium is passed and it moves forward, I would say ‘Yes’ minus-150.”
Without knowing how the stadium issue will develop, Sherman made the odds 7-1.
“It’s such an opportunity. This city should try to do whatever it can do to get a team here,” Sherman said. “It would be highly successful here. The NFL can’t be as opposed to it if they are trying to get a team in London.”
There is legal sports wagering in London, too, and Goodell loves London in his hypocritical way.
The NFL recently allowed the Rams to move from St. Louis to Los Angeles while setting up a roadblock between the Raiders and L.A. In a related story, the Chargers are seeking a new stadium in San Diego while eyeing L.A. in the distance. The league can stand in the Raiders’ way, and force them to stay in a sewage pit, for only so long.
“I think we have more of a chance than we’ve ever had,” CG Technology sports books vice president Matthew Holt said. “We’re all cheering for it, but I’m not overly optimistic. We’re still an underdog, though a small underdog. I’ll say the odds are 2-1 against. I think (Davis) is serious to an extent.
“Talking about building a stadium and building it are different. And the NFL is so anti-gaming that until sports betting laws change, the league is going to be against it, so that’s another hurdle to clear. I have a lot more optimism that we’ll support a football team than a hockey team for 41 nights a year. I think the hockey team is going to be a struggle after the first year. It’s hard to get a regular fan base. Most of the warm-weather franchises have failed.”
The NHL is ready to put an expansion franchise in Las Vegas — with no concerns of sports betting — and it’s unknown if that venture will be a long-term success. But I believe we all should agree an NFL team would be a lock to sell out eight games a year here.
Jimmy Vaccaro, veteran oddsmaker at the South Point, said his “realistic” odds against the Raiders moving to the Strip are 10-1. It was “wishful thinking,” he said, when he made 3-1 odds in February.
Al Davis, the Raiders’ owner until his death in 2011, always expressed an affinity for Las Vegas. If the son makes the move, the father would approve.
“Al Davis loved this town, so it’s almost fitting his franchise should be here,” Bogdanovich said. “We’re a big-boy city now. It would be phenomenal for the city, and phenomenal for sports betting. It’s 2016, and it’s time to get by the gambling thing.”
Build it and the odds the Raiders will come are realistic. Never is history.