Will NFL soften on gambling with Las Vegas franchise?

Will NFL soften on gambling with Las Vegas franchise?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016 Posted by Andy McCarron
If the Raiders are to move to Las Vegas, then the NFL's opposition to gambling looks questionable

It is well documented that perhaps the biggest obstacle for the advocates of sports-betting in the US have to negotiate is the historic reluctance of the major sports leagues to countenance the overturning of Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).

This act has limited the operation of sports-betting and sports lotteries to just four states - Nevada in the first instance and Oregon, Delaware and Montana in the case of the latter. Despite recent interventions from Adam Silver, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA) suggesting a softening of attitudes among the administrators of that sport, it has been assumed that the official position of the National Football League (NFL) remained resolutely (if somewhat hypocritically) opposed.

That is until now. According to reports, the owner of the (currently) Oakland Raiders, Mark Davis, is close to negotiating a franchise move to Sin City, the gambling capital of the western hemisphere. 

Such a move clearly wouldn’t come without its controversies. A brand-new 65,000 seat enormo-dome would need to be built - and the City would have to stump up at least half of the $1.5bn estimated construction costs. This would be funded by a new 1% hotel and rental car tax. 

The financial details of the new stadium - including the involvement of Las Vegas Sands and Majestic Realty which would add an additional $250m to the pot and cover any cost overruns - were made public at a meeting of the Southern Nevada Tourism Committee which, along with Gov. Brian Sandoval, will decide whether this is the best use of the public’s cash or whether it should be spent instead on upgrading the Las Vegas convention centre.

But it is the attitude of the NFL which will be the final determinant of whether the proponents of the Raiders in Las Vegas get their way, and the most recent comments from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suggest it is far from a done deal.

Wary of sanctioning an NFL franchise move directly into the gates of gaming hell, Goodell has reportedly been speaking within the past week to a Bay Area investment group about forming a consortium to help build a new stadium in the Raiders' current home of Oakland. Given his stance on betting and sports integrity, this shouldn't be a surprise. In comments made in late April, Goodall reiterated his opposition to “anything that can impact the integrity of the game”.

“If people think it is something that can influence the outcome of a game, we are absolutely opposed to that,” he added.

The American Gaming Association (AGA) chief executive Geoff Freeman was quick to respond, pointing out there was popular support for regulated sports-betting among NFL fans and adding that the best protection for the integrity of sports was to eliminate black markets. “Illegal sports wagering in the US is conservatively estimated at $150 billion annually,” he said. “The gaming industry invites those who are serious about protecting the integrity of sports to partner with us in pursuit of eliminating the sports-betting black market.”

Naturally enough the regulated sports-betting industry in Nevada is chomping at the bit to welcome the NFL to Vegas. “I think the Raiders are a perfect fit for Las Vegas,” Joe Asher, chief executive of William Hill in Nevada told TotallyGaming.com. “Obviously, the stadium funding is a complex issue that needs to be sorted out and we hope that can be resolved. What’s good for Las Vegas is good for William Hill, so we hope it happens.”

Asher added that PASPA was now a failed and outdated law and it had merely aided the formation of a vast illegal sports-betting black market. “It’s (the NFL’s) product, and they, like we, have an overriding need to protect the integrity of the games,” he said, echoing Freeman. “That can be done only through bringing sports betting out of the shadows and into the sunlight, and properly regulating it as is done in Nevada.”

TotallyGaming Says: "Is the tide turning on sports betting in the US? One of the major sports is interested, the gaming sector is open to its introduction and politicians like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie have been pushing for its legalisation. A Las Vegas franchise might be able to persuade the NFL that the gambling industry is not the threat that many believe it to be."

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