Stadium PSLs are a ripoff for fans, but good business for Raiders

Updated July 17, 2018 - 8:38 pm

Let’s dispense with formalities: A personal seat license is every bit the ripoff it has been portrayed to be for decades.

It’s a corporate scam in the most obvious manner, one way really rich people pay for really expensive stadiums without having to use their ATM card.

But a funny thing gets missed on the way to condemning yet another NFL franchise for making hundreds of millions of dollars through the practice that allows someone the right to purchase season tickets for a certain seat:

It’s damn good business.

Ridiculous in nature and intent, but good business.

Personal Seat Licenses Las Vegas Review-Journal
The construction site for the Raiders stadium in Las Vegas on Thursday, June 28, 2018. Erik Verduzco Las Vegas Review-Journal @Erik_Verduzco

The sticker shock you knew would be attached to seats in the soon-to-be 65,000-seat palace of the Raiders, set to open in 2020, is now front and center for you to see and bemoan, with PSLs going on sale Tuesday in reserved-seating areas.

Those range from $3,900 to $15,000 per seat.

Earlier, it was reported that PSLs for club and other premium seats were $20,000 to $75,000 each.

Yeah. That’s what you pay so you can then buy the actual season ticket.

Welcome to the NFL, Las Vegas, for good or bad, right or wrong, fair or unjust.

If you’re not willing or able to pay the PSL freight, someone else is and will, and the Raiders know it. They weren’t just happy with the response for club and premium seats, all of which are almost sold out. They were ecstatic, particularly when more than 70 percent of the purchases came from Nevada addresses.

I would assume an even higher rate of those within the state will buy the lower-priced reserved seats, because there is an obvious hunger for the NFL here. You might not be part of such euphoria, but it exists, and the Raiders are in the midst of proving it as seats continue to be purchased.

Look, the market will bear what it bears, and given the Raiders believe they can generate $500 million in revenue through PSLs, the math tells us Nevada will have played a much larger financial part in constructing this stadium than originally reported.

Sure, it’s all semantics, but when you consider the Raiders are on the hook for $1.1 billion of the $1.8 billion stadium price tag and such a large chunk of the team’s bill will come from PSLs, the idea that we as a state will be responsible for less than 50 percent of the cost is laughable.

It reminds us about the debate of direct versus indirect costs to residents regarding the $750 million hotel room tax — yes, such funds could potentially go to things like schools, police, fire departments and roads instead of a stadium — and yet there is no debating that Nevada now owns a higher stake in the project than any other entity involved.

Which is how things have worked in most NFL stadium deals.

I don’t blame the Raiders for trying to make as much money as they can via PSLs. This is their world. You can define it as greed, and there are numerous examples across the NFL brand to support such a label, but it has proved to be an incredibly successful business model.

Of course a percentage of fans will resent the team. Of course the Raiders might, in some cases, be trading loyalty for profit. Of course the time of a PSL being a great investment because you could sell it on the secondary market has changed as teams substantially increase the initial price, costing some fans thousands of dollars on average the past several years.

None of this is pretty. Not when you’re talking about shelling out such large amounts of cash to make an already-profitable industry even richer with no equivalent return.

But it’s reality. It’s how things work, and the Raiders have every right to take advantage.

So now you know. The sticker shock is here.

I get most folks desire equity in, say, their home, and not a nosebleed view of an NFL game.

I also realize the car I just purchased would equal that of about half a club seat in the Raiders’ stadium, which makes me wonder: Would that come with a free half of a hot dog, too?

Because when it comes to a PSL, it might be damn good business for the team owner, but bargains are limited for those paying the freight.

Welcome to the NFL, Las Vegas, is right.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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