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Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis will be in Las Vegas on Thursday to meet with officials and discuss the possible move of his franchise to the city, and it sounds as if he is all in. But there is still one big catch: financing for a new stadium.
According to UNLV insider Joe Arrigo, Davis is scheduled to meet on Thursday with the Sands Group, the hotel and casino company attempting to build the stadium. The new stadium would reportedly be shared by the Raiders and the UNLV football program beginning in 2017 or 2018; in the meantime, the Raiders would play at Sam Boyd Stadium, UNLV's current field, which Davis has reportedly already toured.
Both Arrigo and Jason Cole of Bleacher Report have said that if the meeting goes well and the financing is approved, Davis will pledge to move the team.
A pledge by Davis to move the franchise does not, however, guarantee that the Raiders will kick off from Las Vegas in the coming seasons. NFL owners would still need to approve the move, and it's unclear whether this would happen.
Gambling has previously kept the NFL and other major sports leagues out of Vegas, and Cole reports that several NFL owners, including Giants' owner John Mara, want to keep it that way. But the recent partnership between the NFL and the daily fantasy sites DraftKings and FanDuel in the past year complicates the matter, and other owners will look at Las Vegas and see an untapped market for the league.
The importance of a new market is bolstered by the recent uncertainty surrounding the Chargers' possible move to Los Angeles; if Dean Spanos and San Diego figure out how to keep the Chargers from moving, NFL owners could be particularly inclined to back Davis' Vegas bid.
In that same vein, one way to consider Davis' possible pledge to Las Vegas is as leverage over the city of Oakland: If the financing for a Vegas stadium is approved and Davis does pledge to move the Raiders there, Oakland city officials could feel mounting pressure to finance a new stadium so the Raiders don't relocate. That could mean using public funds to finance a new stadium, which would most likely come down to a public vote, as we have seen with the Chargers battle in San Diego. For now, though, Oakland officials have hardly batted an eye at the growing likelihood of losing the Raiders.
In all, we won't know much until Thursday. And even then, if the Las Vegas financing is approved, the battle over the future home of the Raiders will only just begin.
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