In the equivalent of a two-minute drill, the NFL changed its view of Las Vegas and legal sports betting.
Less than two years ago, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was forced to cancel a fantasy football convention here because of the NFL’s policy against players being associated with gambling. But on Monday, the league’s owners overwhelmingly approved the Raiders’ relocation from Oakland to America’s gambling capital by a 31-1 vote.
“We knew the votes were there, but when it became a reality, it was still shocking to me,” Westgate sports book director Jay Kornegay said. “Just a couple years ago, they wouldn’t let Las Vegas advertise in the Super Bowl. It was a 180 degree turn.
“We’ve all seen the last couple years how the climate has changed toward sports betting.”
A confluence of factors has led to the growing mainstream acceptance of legal sports betting, from expanding national media coverage to NBA commissioner Adam Silver emerging as a vocal proponent.
But the biggest factor in overcoming the stigma of sports betting and bringing an iconic NFL franchise to Las Vegas was money. As Raiders owner Mark Davis said in April 2016, the team and city made the NFL an offer it couldn’t refuse in the $750 million in taxes that was approved by the Nevada Legislature for construction of a $1.9 billion domed stadium near the Strip.
“It seems just a few years ago (the NFL) wasn’t a realistic option. The key point that changed everything was getting the $750 million through the state legislature,” Westgate sports book manager Jeff Sherman said. “The NFL is never going to see that much again through state finance. It was too much to say no to. If that aspect didn’t exist, we wouldn’t be looking at the Raiders coming here.”
The Raiders have two one-year lease options in the Oakland Coliseum, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday the plan is for the team to stay there until the stadium is complete. But Sherman said the odds are that the Raiders will be playing at Sam Boyd Stadium in 2018.
“I don’t think it’s going to go over that well (in Oakland) for an entire season. I think they’ll explore their options for 2018 and make upgrades to Sam Boyd Stadium,” he said. “There was one offshore betting site I saw on Twitter that said the Raiders playing in Vegas in 2018 was a 1-5 favorite. I don’t know if the odds are that extreme, but I would have them as a favorite to play here in 2018.
“They just have to expand the seating capacity in the open end zone and improve the locker rooms and parking. If they can do that, you’re only talking seven home dates and two preseason games, because I’m sure they’ll commit to playing a game in Mexico City the next couple of years.”
With the NHL and NFL on their way here, Sherman and William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich expect Las Vegas to land an NBA team within five years.
“The NBA’s next. Adam Silver loves this town, and they do all the Summer League stuff here and there’s already a great arena at T-Mobile,” Bogdanovich said. “Why not? We’ve got the hockey and the NFL, and the NBA is tailor-made for Las Vegas. This is a basketball town.”
The NFL has played games for years in London’s Wembley Stadium, where there are sports betting concessions on site. And NFL teams also have partnered with daily fantasy sports companies. Many would argue that betting has driven the popularity of the NFL, and Bogdanovich said it would have been hypocritical of the league to deny Las Vegas entry because of sports wagering.
“Let’s face it, the only reason people watch a blowout in the NFL is because of second-half wagering, fantasy football and bets on the over-under and things like that,” he said. “They know it helps their product.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or 702-383-0354. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.
ODDS TO WIN SUPER BOWL XLII
New England Patriots 7-2
Dallas Cowboys 7-1
Green Bay Packers 10-1
Pittsburgh Steelers 12-1
Seattle Seahawks 12-1
Oakland Raiders 12-1
— Courtesy of Westgate sports book