Very few teams in the NFL have a history as storied as the Raiders. Between their origins and history in Oakland and their 12-year stint in Los Angeles, the Raiders are synonymous with football in California. That’s why it came as a shock to many that the NFL owners almost unanimously approved the Raiders’ request to move to Las Vegas. While Raiders ownership may be dazzled by the promise of a $1.9 billion brand new stadium in Las Vegas, this move may be a losing bet not only for the Raiders but for Sin City as well.
Las Vegas has been unsuccessfully trying to get a pro franchise for decades. They had a CFL team during the American Expansion period of the 1990s, which only lasted a single season. Similarly the city had the Las Vegas Outlaws of the ill-fated XFL. Las Vegas also has a similar problem to that of Los Angeles. While LA now has the Rams again and the incoming Chargers, most Southern California football fans spend their entertainment dollars on the established USC Trojans. Currently in Las Vegas, the big football ticket is the UNLV Rebels. The NFL will have a hard time pulling Las Vegas diehards away from the Rebels to see the Raiders.
Las Vegas is paying for the new stadium with a hotel tax. That amount represents their contribution of a much larger price tag. You’d think that if any town could pull that off, it’s Las Vegas due to the fact that they are a top travel destination in the US. The problem is that hotel tax is also used for things like schools and public transportation. You could raise the hotel tax but that could start making hotels more expensive than your average traveler is willing to pay, and with gambling legal in many states now, Las Vegas doesn’t have the must see appeal that it used to. Combine that with the fact that Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson pulled out of his part of the deal, the Raiders have to pony up $650 million of their own money.
This also isn’t taking into account that the Raiders will only be using the new stadium for 8 days out of the year without counting preseason games or possible playoff appearances. How is the city going to fill the stadium for the rest of the year as Las Vegas has no shortage of already established entertainment venues? As Stanford sports economist Roger Noll said to the Bay area media…
“It’s not in the casinos’ interest for you to fly into Vegas for the weekend and then have you spend half a day at the football stadium,” Noll said. “They attract you to gamble, go to the shows and eat at the expensive restaurants.
He also added that “This is the worst deal for a city I have ever seen.”
The reality is that the City of Oakland needs the Raiders. Unfortunately, the Raiders were unimpressed with the offers made by the city, necessitating the move to Las Vegas. With the Raiders moving to Las Vegas and the Golden State Warriors of the NBA moving to San Francisco, not only is the city losing two major revenue streams but also the number of jobs that went along with both of those franchises. As a city, Oakland was on the upswing when it came to being a viable market as an alternative to the other much more expensive cities in the Bay Area. With the loss of the Raiders, not only has it lost one of its few major attractions, but it may have lost its ability to attract bigger financial opportunities for the city which in the long-term will see a decline in Oakland’s standard of living.