HOUSTON — As much as Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis wishes otherwise, a decision on allowing him to move his franchise to Las Vegas isn’t likely to come anytime soon.
That’s not to say it won’t happen. Several team owners are ready to support the relocation if the right pieces fall into place — and we’re not talking roulette wheels.
“I’m pleased they’ve made as much progress as they have,” Texans owner Robert McNair said Wednesday at the league’s fall meetings, when Davis made a short presentation to the membership. “We’ll look at it when it is finally presented in total. These things are still so fluid, until they nail everything down we don’t know what we’re looking at. We’ll wait until we have a full package.”
It’s critical to Davis — and Las Vegas — that the full package is persuasive enough to overcome some of the debits of the move. There’s the downsizing from the Bay Area, one of America’s prime marketplaces, to much smaller Vegas. There’s the abandoning of Oakland for the second time by the franchise, and this time when the region has shown tremendous growth.
There are questions about the involvement of casino owner Sheldon Adelson , who is putting $650 million toward the $1.9 billion domed stadium project. How big will his role be? How involved with the Raiders does he want his casino to be?
And, of course, there’s the unavoidable topic of gambling.
“From my perspective, there clearly are shifts in society and the way people view gambling and the way you view even lotteries,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “There have been shifts in that and we obviously monitor that. But we still remain very much opposed to legalized gambling on sports, and we think that has an impact on the integrity of our game, and that’s what we watch. Whether people gamble or not is not necessarily our particular focus.
“What we want to do is make sure we’re doing what’s right for the game, and for the NFL, and that’s where our focus will remain.”
Over the next two months or so, the league will conduct studies of Las Vegas as a potential team home. The Raiders can apply for relocation in January, though Davis has said the team will play the next two seasons in Oakland, fulfilling two one-year lease options. The target, fluid as it is, would be to call the desert home in 2019 at the earliest.
There are scenarios, of course, in which the Raiders could wind up in Los Angeles as the second tenant in the Rams’ new facility in Inglewood, or they would have to wait yet another year to know where they might head.
Should the Chargers vacate San Diego for L.A. — much depends on next month’s stadium referendum there — the Southern California option disappears for Davis. But there’s also a chance the Chargers could seek a one-year delay on their decision, something three-quarters of the 32 NFL owners would need to approve.
Still, Davis’ pursuit of Las Vegas, and the city’s wooing of him, will continue unabated — barring a last-ditch effort by Oakland to make a proposal that works for the Raiders and the league.
“Oakland was in the driver’s seat if they could’ve put together anything,” Davis said. “They came up with nothing. Las Vegas has already done what it is supposed to do and we have to bring it up to the National Football League and get permission to move to Las Vegas.”
The other owners are listening.
“I have an open mind,” Giants owner John Mara said. “There’s a lot more work to be done. Where the land is (for the stadium), what the public money is, where are we with Oakland? Market studies need to be done.
“They made a good presentation,” Mara added of the Raiders, “but we’re a long ways from a determination.”
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