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Raiders bets likely to remain at sports books even if franchise moves to Las Vegas

The chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission says Raiders games aren’t likely to come off the state’s betting boards if the NFL franchise moves from Oakland to Las Vegas — even if the league asks for a wagering prohibition on the team.

If the Oakland Raiders take up residence in Las Vegas, the team or the National Football League could request to have games removed from wagering in the state’s sportsbooks.

The state’s Regulation 22 provides the means for games to be taken off the board, but Tony Alamo, chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, doesn’t see that ever happening.

“I can’t speak for the commission, but growing up in the gaming industry and trusting the integrity of the gaming industry, I have total comfort in allowing sports betting on any teams whether they are here in Nevada — in Las Vegas, Reno or otherwise — or in other locations,” Alamo said.

“The fact that the Raiders come from Oakland to Las Vegas doesn’t move my needle in any direction in terms of should we allow that to be on a sports book board or not. Nothing changed for me.”

Betting on games is still a hangup for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. At last month’s NFL owners meetings in Houston, Goodell said at a news conference, “We still are very much opposed to legalized gambling on sports.

“We think that it 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 eventually is what’s right for the game and for the NFL.”

NO INDICATION ON CHALLENGE TO BETTING

The league is still working to keep the team in Oakland and hasn’t indicated whether it would challenge betting on Raiders games if the team were to relocate to Las Vegas.

The regulation that governs race and sports books includes a list of circumstances in which regulators could prohibit bets on a competition.

The relevant passage for professional teams says:

“No wagers may be accepted or paid by any book on … any event, regardless of where it is held, involving a professional team whose home field, a court, or base is in Nevada, or any event played in Nevada involving a professional team, if, not later than 30 days before an event or the beginning of a series of events, the team’s governing body files with the commission a written request that wagers on the event or series of events be prohibited, and the commission approves the request.”

The key phrase involves whether the commission would approve the request. The five-member commission would be required to consider a written request.

In his time on the commission, Alamo said he hasn’t ever received such a request, but Jay Kornegay, the race and sports director of the Westgate Las Vegas book, said prior to his arrival in Las Vegas a request was made to ban bets on the Las Vegas Stars, the predecessors to the Las Vegas 51s minor-league baseball team.

Kornegay said the element of sports wagering, in years past, has been an argument against bringing a major-league team to Las Vegas. But he added that attitudes have changed.

“There have been individual requests to take competitions off the board, for some rugby tournaments and the NFR (National Finals Rodeo),” Kornegay said. “I think it would be hypocritical on our part to take Raiders games off.”

POLICY CHANGES IN THE ’90s

At one time, University of Nevada and UNLV games were banned from betting boards, but the policy was changed in the 1990s and games have been bet ever since.

There also have been some cases when casino owners voluntarily removed games from their boards because of ownership interests in teams. The Maloof family, former owners of the Palms, took Sacramento Kings basketball games off because they owned the team. Caesars Entertainment properties avoided taking bets on the Boston Celtics because of former CEO Gary Loveman’s associations with the team, and Landry’s Inc. CEO Tilman Fertitta removed betting on Houston Texans games at the Golden Nugget.

Kornegay noted that two NFL games have been played at London’s Wembley Stadium, and while a sports wagering parlor at the stadium was shut down during games, other nearby betting locations were easily accessible. In addition, mobile wagering has made it possible for bets to be made from stadium seats in London.

“Proximity is a non-issue to me,” Kornegay said.

Alamo concurs.

‘OPEN TO LISTENING’

“The integrity of gaming is so above reproach that it doesn’t matter if the team is 100 yards away or 400 miles away,” Alamo said. “What changed? Nothing.”

But Alamo said if the team or the NFL made a request to take games off the board, it would be considered.

“Let’s see what the NFL says,” he said. “I’m open to listening. If the NFL comes before us and says we’re asking and everyone is in agreement — the community, the industry and the NFL are all congruent in asking that perhaps we shouldn’t allow the booking of bets on the Raiders, I’m willing to listen.”

The Raiders’ relocation to Las Vegas hinges on a vote of NFL owners. Three-fourths support, or 24 of 32 owners, is required for a team move. The Raiders intend to apply for relocation in January after the regular season ends.

If the move is approved, work on a $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat domed stadium could begin. The stadium would be financed with $650 million from Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson and his family, $750 million in public funds from a hotel room-tax increase approved in a special session of the Nevada Legislature in October, and $500 million from the Raiders through seat licensing and a loan from the NFL.

A nine-member stadium authority board is in the process of being appointed and is expected to meet before the end of the year to select a stadium site and coordinate construction.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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