The N.F.L. gave its approval on Monday for the Oakland Raiders to move to Las Vegas, casting aside decades of fears that putting a team in the gambling capital would corrupt the sport, while sending the team to a new and growing market but one that is far smaller.
The Las Vegas Raiders. pic.twitter.com/4wlmo0w35M
— NFL (@NFL) March 27, 2017
otbalThe team owners, meeting in Phoenix, voted overwhelmingly, 31-1, persuaded that having a team in Las Vegas would allow the league to capitalize on the city’s booming tourist trade and image of excitement, and on its willingness to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars toward the construction of a new stadium.
For years, major leagues steered clear of Las Vegas because some owners worried that putting a team there would lead more players and referees to rub elbows with unsavory characters from the gambling world trying to influence games. But such attitudes have faded with the growth and acceptance of gambling around the country, and with the city’s reduced reliance on revenue from its many casinos.
The N.H.L. agreed last year to create a team in Las Vegas, the Golden Knights, that will begin play this year.
The Raiders, known for a passionate fan base that delights in a rough-hewed image, are likely to begin playing in Las Vegas as soon as 2019, in temporary quarters, with the lease at their current stadium expiring after the 2018 season. In 2020, they are expected to move into a nearly $2 billion stadium, with $750 million in public financing, an arrangement that helped attract the league’s interest. The rest of the money was expected to come from a $600 million loan from Bank of America to the team, $200 million from the league and revenue from naming rights and other deals.
“We know that some fans will be disappointed and even angry,” said Mark Davis, the Raiders’ principal owner. “But we hope they do not direct that frustration to the players, coaches and staff.”
Libby Schaaf, the mayor of Oakland, said that losing the team would tear at the city’s psyche and pride, and that the league would regret its decision.
“The Raider nation is the last of the blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth fan bases, and it absolutely breaks my heart to lose this team,” she said.
— Peter Joe (@RaiderPosts) March 28, 2017
The team will become the first to leave its home city, return and then leave again. The Raiders are also the third N.F.L. team to move, or announce a move, in a little more than a year, ending a period of turmoil in which the owners agreed to abandon longtime N.F.L. cities that were unable to appease the owners’ desire for bigger markets and more public financing for new stadiums.