SAN FRANCISCO — It seems Mark Davis has thought about moving the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas for some time.
Or at least covering some of the bases for it.
Davis in 1998 registered the domain, “LASVEGASRAIDERS.COM,” because he and his late father, Al Davis, contemplated back then relocating to the desert.
Whether such a shift ever occurs is still considered by league insiders more longshot than not, but a recent proposal by casino giant Las Vegas Sands Corp. to build a 65,000-seat domed stadium and a subsequent visit from Davis to inspect the site fueled speculation about a marriage between the two sides.
The Raiders are reportedly close to signing a one-year lease extension with the O.co Coliseum to remain in Oakland for the 2016 season, and the earliest a stadium could be ready to open in Las Vegas would be 2020.
But beyond the obvious hurdles in a proposal calling for two-thirds public financing to build the stadium are those financial limitations of Davis, one of several challenges longtime Bay Area media members covering Super Bowl 50 believe would make a Raiders-to-Las-Vegas union overly difficult to achieve.
Davis has a reported net worth of $500 million.
More than 20 NFL owners are billionaires.
“Mark doesn’t have any spare money,” said Ray Ratto, columnist and television/radio personality for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. “He is the weirdest anomaly ever. He is an NFL owner living on minimum wage compared to all the others. He has a bad lease in Oakland. I would assume he would have a bad lease in Las Vegas, because if others are footing the money for the stadium, they’re going to want the lion’s share. There are a lot of issues with this, but the biggest one with the Raiders is they have nothing to throw in the pot.”
Which makes many think this will happen: The next person Davis goes into business with regarding a stadium and his team will become part owner of the Raiders. Some have speculated Davis might just sell the franchise.
Whether ownership is a long-term vision of someone like Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson is unknown, but the financial portrait painted of Davis is one that more than suggests he can’t make such a move without substantial help.
“Whether it’s Sheldon Adelson or someone else, he’s gong to need a partner,” said Mark Kreidler, Bay Area author who hosts, “The Rise Guys,” on ESPN Radio. “He couldn’t do Las Vegas by himself. This is the same thing I always think about the Raiders — any port in the storm. Seriously.
“They have looked at San Antonio? Have they really? I don’t know. Los Angeles? Sure. San Diego if the Chargers leave? You bet. Las Vegas? Really? We can come to Las Vegas? They don’t have a plan, and when you have absolutely no plan, you’re vulnerable to whatever gets thrown down.
“That said, Mark Davis is serious about finding a home. If the NFL walked in and just said, ‘Look, you guys in Las Vegas obviously have money and we have no problem with you,’ then Mark Davis would be there tomorrow. But if it were that simple, I think you would have a couple more NFL owners saying, ‘Wait a minute. Did you say Vegas is in play?’ “
“Eventually, Mark has to decide on something. Right now, he hasn’t decided on anything. It’s the same thing he said on the day he took over from his father, which was they loved Oakland but were basically open for business. Nothing has changed.”
It will be interesting to follow the NFL on this matter and see if it has indeed changed in regard to housing a team in Las Vegas and the sports gaming that comes with it. The league sent a memo to all 32 teams last week outlining a possible Raiders move to Las Vegas and instructions on how to handle questions about it.
The message: Any such move would not necessarily be considered a negative by the NFL, although the Raiders would still need the necessary 24 votes by owners to relocate. In other words, commissioner Roger Goodell’s office isn’t dumb enough to open itself up to future litigation by summarily dismissing a city as a possible home to a franchise.
It’s a safe bet the issue will arise again here Friday, when Goodell holds his annual state of the league address.
“The only reason the NFL doesn’t want to get in bed with gambling is because it can’t get a piece of the action,” Ratto said. “That’s why they bought into FanDuel and DraftKings. If they could walk into Las Vegas today and get a piece of the action from casino owners — good luck with that — the league would probably already be in Vegas. It has never been about sports gaming. Frankly, without that aspect, the NFL would be nothing more than a weekly show of 1,000 car wrecks 16 times, people running into each other and getting brain damage for nothing.
“The NFL sees the Premier League in England, sees the owners are not only in bed with the sports books, but have no problem with it, sees many of the soccer teams sponsored by the books and all the money it creates, and wants that. If you show the NFL a chunk of money like that, it would do anything. It would come to Las Vegas in a heartbeat.”
Whether it would be Mark Davis coming along for the ride is an entirely different matter.
But at least he owns the domain.
The Review-Journal is owned by a limited liability company controlled by the Adelson family, majority owners of Las Vegas Sands.
Ed Graney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be a heard on “Seat and Ed” on Fox Sports 1340 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. On Twitter: @edgraney