NFL approves Raiders' move to Las Vegas

Ryan Wood
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PHOENIX - It’s the third time in as many years an NFL team has relocated, but the Oakland Raiders’ move to Las Vegas is unlike any the league has seen.

The Raiders’ move — the preeminent issue at the league’s annual owners meetings — was approved Monday in an NFL vote by a reported 31-1 margin. The Raiders needed only a three-fourths vote from the league’s owners to relocate.

Mark Murphy, the Green Bay Packers president and CEO, said Sunday he expected the vote to pass because of its “unanimous” support within the joint committee and stadium finance committee. It represents a changing attitude in how the league views Las Vegas as a market to host one of its teams.

In the past, Murphy acknowledged, “there was a hard stop” on discussing Las Vegas as a viable option because of its reputation for being the nation’s gambling capital.

“More recently,” Murphy said, “I think there was kind of a sense that with online gambling, gambling is an issue everywhere. I do think that’s something we’ll discuss (Monday), and what kind of precautions are going to be taken to ensure we don’t have a major scandal coming out of having a team in Las Vegas.”

There were other issues Murphy expected to be discussed. Specifically, it’s rare for an NFL team to relocate to a substantially smaller market. The St. Louis Rams moved to Los Angeles in 2016, going from the nation’s 21st-largest market to its second biggest. The San Diego Chargers’ relocation to Los Angeles moved it from the 28th-largest market.

The Bay Area of San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland represents the nation’s sixth-largest market. It’s a stage the Raiders had to share with the San Francisco 49ers, the dominant team in the region. Now, the Raiders will get their own city, but they’ll be located in the nation’s 40th-largest market.

Only the Packers (No. 68), Buffalo Bills (No. 53) and Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 47) have NFL teams in smaller markets.

“The biggest issue, quite honestly,” Murphy said, “is that in Oakland and San Diego both teams were unable to get satisfactory stadium deals. In the NFL, if you’re playing in an old, decrepit stadium, it’s hard to be successful off the field.”

Owner Mark Davis and the Raiders were wooed by a $1.9 billion stadium project — with $750 million in public funding — to be constructed near the Strip in Las Vegas. The project gained significant momentum when Davis secured Bank of America as a replacement investor for the $650 million commitment that was withdrawn by Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul, in January.

The Vegas stadium is expected to open in 2020.

The Raiders have been in Oakland in 45 of the franchise’s 58 seasons, including the last 22. The Raiders kicked off their history in the AFL in Oakland in 1960, but moved to Los Angeles for the 1982 season. They played there 13 years before previous owner Al Davis moved the team back to Oakland in 1995.

USA TODAY Sports also contributed to this report.

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