Sitting on a stage before a packed ballroom inside a Las Vegas hotel and casino, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell smiled when he was asked about the Raiders.
“They’re now officially the Las Vegas Raiders,” Goodell said. “They’re here and you’re going to see a lot more of them now.”
The Raiders’ season ended Dec. 29 when they played the Denver Broncos in their final game as the Oakland Raiders. While the 2020 league calendar doesn’t start until March 18 and the Raiders aren’t expected to officially move to Las Vegas until this summer, Goodell was comfortable identifying Mark Davis, who was seated in the front row, as the owner of the “Las Vegas Raiders.”
Speaking at a Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce event Friday, Goodell touched on a variety of topics that included Allegiant Stadium, the Raiders’ new $2-billion home, which is scheduled to be completed by July 31.
“It screams Las Vegas Raiders,” Goodell said of the stadium. “It’s silver and black, and it’s in such a great setting off of the Strip. It’s the Raiders’ true home now. It makes that statement just by looking at it.”
The NFL draft will be held in Las Vegas on April 23-25 and essentially serve as the Raiders’ welcome party with the league planning to “incorporate all the iconic features of this city,” Goodell said.
In addition to the draft, Goodell said he could see Las Vegas and Allegiant Stadium hosting a Super Bowl in the near future. Super Bowl LIX in 2025 is the next Super Bowl to be granted a host.
“This city knows how to put on big events, there’s no question about that,” Goodell said. “You have the infrastructure and it’s Super Bowl ready. You have Allegiant Stadium, which is going to be a world-class stadium that will be our stage ultimately. You have everything here.”
While Las Vegas will have to wait at least five years to host its first Super Bowl, the city could host the Pro Bowl as early as next year. The league’s contract to host the game in Orlando is up after this month and Goodell said the league could bring the game to Las Vegas.
“I think it would be great to have the Pro Bowl right here in Vegas,” Goodell said. “I think it’s a perfect spot.”
SoFi Stadium, the $5-billion future home of the Rams and Chargers that is scheduled to open this summer, is also being considered as a future home of the Pro Bowl. The Pro Bowl, like the Super Bowl, was born in Los Angeles. It was played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum from 1950 to 1971 and again in 1978 before it moved to Hawaii.
Las Vegas has seen the NFL, NHL and WNBA put teams in the city since 2016 after it was viewed as untouchable because of legalized sports gambling and its “Sin City” reputation.
“What I see now is a city that has emerged from the Strip and primarily a casino-driven town to a city that’s really quite remarkable,” Goodell said. “I think we’ll all be grateful that Mark Davis made the decision to come here.”
The Supreme Court cleared the way in 2018 for states to legalize sports gambling by striking down a 1992 federal law that had prohibited sports betting from being authorized in most states. It removed the black cloud that had hovered over Las Vegas in the eyes of most professional sports leagues, all of which now have official casino sponsors. The NFL selected Caesars Palace as its first casino sponsor last year.
“We think sports gambling in many ways creates a lot more engagement for our fans,” Goodell said. “It’s another opportunity for them to engage with our game.”