On Wednesday, in NFL owners’ meetings in Houston, the subject of a possible Oakland Raiders’ move to Las Vegas is being addressed, and one of the leading advocates for the relocation is Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
“There’s no question it has additional interest and a ‘Wow!’ factor,” Jones said of Las Vegas’ NFL aspirations in a conversation with The Times and Boston Herald last month in his AT&T Stadium suite.
“It’s one of the jewels of the country. It has that going for it. And the NFL itself could help bolster it up if there’s any risk of it not being what you’d like it to be. Someone could say, ‘Twenty years from now, it may look tired and worn out; it may have lost some of its glitter.’ The NFL coming in is a plus.”
This week, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval signed a bill that will cover some of the costs of the proposed $1.9 billion domed stadium that would be built on the south side of The Strip, across the 15 Freeway from Mandalay Bay.
Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson has pledged more than $600 million to the stadium project, and others who potentially could align with Raiders owner Mark Davis include hotel/casino magnate Steve Wynn, MGM Resorts’ Jim Murren and former UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta, who earlier this year sold his company for $4 billion.
“Mark has the Raiders, but … the makeup of who might be involved in a power-able way with Mark is very impressive in Nevada, counting [Fertitta and family], counting Sheldon, counting MGM, counting Steve Wynn,” Jones said. “I’m telling you, you’re talking about people who have financial credibility and a unique understanding of entertainment and the value in that particular marketplace.
“When I think about it and I look at it, I say, ‘Boy, that makeup of people … it might not be necessary in Cleveland and Indianapolis, but in Las Vegas, it is.
“When I think of the ‘Wow!’, the idea of the entertainment aspect [in Las Vegas] and uniqueness of [the Raiders’ reputation] and how it might fit there in comparison to Indianapolis or Jacksonville fitting in there, there’s some positives going on.”
Jones has some selfish interest to point the Raiders to Las Vegas instead of allowing the team an opening to shorten his strong fan base with a move to San Antonio, but he’s also stood as a committed proponent of league business, including his involvement in the Rams’ move to Los Angeles, television deals and several other matters.
He admitted, “Market size is the question. Studies are going on right now to look at that. It comes in at the 20th- to 22nd-sized market.” And he wonders how the Raiders’ rivalries would be affected.
“In the NFL, it’s my town against your town, my granddaddy’s town against your granddaddy’s. Can we get that going with Las Vegas?” Jones asked.
It likely would enhance the division rivalry with the Chargers should they remain in San Diego and with non-conference foe Arizona, and the still-strong Southern California fan base for the Raiders certainly would aid attendance.
NFL owners are expected to vote by May on the move, and beyond Jones’ bold push, San Diego’s Dean Spanos, San Francisco’s Jed York and the Rams’ Stan Kroenke would be obvious supporters, with 24 votes needed for relocation.
Those who run Nevada’s sports books express eagerness to convey to league officials that gambling in the state should not be a deterrent to the move. Most NFL gambling is done illegally, not in resorts, and the tight regulation and corporate alertness to unusual betting behavior allow the casinos to act quicker than anyone else, Westgate Las Vegas Superbook director Jay Kornegay told The Times this week.
“I really don’t think that gaming — relative to what Las Vegas has done [while focusing on] families and entertainment — is the issue it might’ve been 15, 20 years ago,” Jones said. “Las Vegas has everything. I’m not saying gaming isn’t sensitive nationally. I’m saying Las Vegas itself has softened the gaming issue.”
In his conversations with those power players from Nevada desiring the Raiders, Jones said of all of Las Vegas’ positives, “Every one of them that I talk to — every one — think it’s the greatest thing that could ever happen to Nevada.”