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NFL to study viability of Las Vegas supporting pro football

HOUSTON — The NFL will study whether Las Vegas can adequately support a franchise before team owners vote on the Oakland Raiders’ relocation to Southern Nevada.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday that a study comparing Las Vegas with Oakland would be the next step in the process of relocating the team to a $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat domed stadium off the Strip.

Goodell also renewed concerns about placing a team in a state that has legalized sports wagering.

Asked about societal shifts in how the public views betting on sports, Goodell said, “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.”

Asked if that could be a stumbling block for a team seeking relocation to Las Vegas, Goodell said: “Those are things we’re going to have to evaluate. We’re going to look at the market, we’re going to look at what we see as the opportunities. We’re going to look at Oakland. We’re going to look at every aspect of this to make sure we are making the right decision for the long term of the NFL.”

Goodell conducted the news conference at the close of two days of meetings by NFL owners. Raiders owner Mark Davis made a short presentation to owners about the stadium and the team’s relocation plans Wednesday morning.


 

NFL executives leaving the meeting said they found the report informative but that it was too early to gauge whether they would support a move.

Davis already completed a similar marketing report, which was a part of the analysis conducted by the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee. That committee unanimously recommended the stadium project to Gov. Brian Sandoval, who called a special session of the Nevada Legislature to approve the dome’s financing plan. Davis said he would commission another study in addition to the one performed for the NFL.

When Goodell addressed the media, he downplayed the Raiders’ relocation efforts, discussing player health and safety issues, the league’s collective bargaining agreement and the excitement the league has generated with a record number of low margins of victory in the first six weeks of the season. He didn’t discuss the Raiders until journalists began asking questions.

“We had presentations from all three of the California teams this morning and the status of their efforts to get stadiums built,” Goodell said, referring to the Los Angeles Rams, the San Diego Chargers and the Raiders.


 

The Rams moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles this year, and San Diego voters will consider a stadium referendum on the November ballot.

Goodell said Davis’ presentation was “factual and members (owners) had the opportunity to ask questions, and the chairman of the committee, (Pittsburgh Steelers owner) Art Rooney, made it very clear that there’s still a great deal of information that we need to have in terms of the circumstances of Las Vegas.”

Goodell didn’t identify who would be conducting the study or a timetable for completion, but he said it was possible it would be presented at the owners’ one-day meeting Dec. 14 in Dallas.


 


“We’ll be studying everything that is important to the long-term support of an NFL franchise,” Goodell said. “Is there a significant fan base there that would support the team corporately? Stadium economics? Would the fan experience be at the level we would need to be successful there? What is the impact on some of our policies that we need to look at? We would evaluate it from start to finish. Some of that’s market research, and some of that’s pure analysis. Part of that’s getting in there and asking the questions.”

Goodell said he expects the report to be thorough.

“It’s expansive in the sense of making sure we consider every aspect when ownership makes their vote,” he said.

Before Goodell’s news conference, Davis reiterated his desire to move the team to Las Vegas, hoping to get a thumbs-up from owners as soon as possible. The support of 24 of 32 owners is required to move a team.


 


Asked what he hoped the time frame would be to get a decision, Davis laughed and said, “Well, I’d love for them to say, ‘OK, today,’ so we can get to work and start building that thing. Maybe we’d be done by 2019.”

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson, who are partners in the Raiders stadium project.

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

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