Roger Goodell may have called the conversation about the Raiders moving to Las Vegas "premature" at the Owners Meetings last week, but that isn't stopping people from asking team owners about the possibility. Jenny Vrentas of MMQB with Peter King recently asked several owners in Charlotte about the subject and got answers from 5 NFL owners.
The answers range from "open minded" to "very excited" and included one prominent owner back stepping from saying the issue was a "non-starter". The issues are clearly evolving around the attitudes toward Vegas as an option, and all 5 owners seem more worried about the local support of the ball club more so than any issues with gambling.
John Mara, owner of the New York Giants, was quoted by Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post as early as March 20th of this year as calling the Raiders possible move to LV a "non-starter" issue and that most owners would dismiss it because of gambling issues. Fast forward 2 months and he is hedging his original bet on Vegas.
"I'm open-minded. I would want to hear a presentation about it and the pros and cons, and obviously there are some concerns, but I am not going to rule it out. The gambling, is the market deep enough to support an NFL team, what kind of stadium would be there, what kind of support are they going to get from the community? Those would be the concerns."
Mara didn't go as far as to endorse the idea, he says he wouldn't bet either way on it until after he sees a presentation that addresses the "pros and cons" of the move. However, he does admit that it might not be as big of an issue as he thought when Vrentas asks about whether the attitudes had changed about the gambling in Vegas.
Philadelphia Eagles owner was also tentative to give an answer due to concerns about the market being able to support the team properly but was clear that he didn't think gambling was a big problem. Laurie says he'd "be open to it" but that they need to do more research first about the ability of the city to support an NFL franchise.
Next in line shouldn't be much of a surprise to you. We already know just based off of logic that Bob McNair who owns the Houston Texans would be open to the idea. One of the other areas mentioned for possible relocation was San Antonio which would creep into Houston's fan base so of course he is fine with the Raiders going to Vegas.
"I would look favorably at it. I would like to hear all the arguments, make sure we are not overlooking something. But you have gambling all around you now, lotteries on every street corner. I don't think it is the issue we viewed it to be 20 years ago. We want Oakland to get a good facility, and have stability with their franchise, and if this is an opportunity to do that, then I think it is something we need to seriously consider."
San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York also has territorial reasons to be fine with the Raiders moving to Vegas, so it is no surprise he would be all for the Raiders getting a stadium "anywhere" that has satisfied all the steps and due diligence needed to know the project would work. York also says "the stigma of Las Vegas is a lot different today than where it was in the past".
Last but not least is the other New York owner, Woody Johnson of the Jets. He clearly thinks very highly of Vegas as a tax haven that is a very "exciting market". Again the questions surround the economy of Vegas and their fan base over the gambling at the casinos.
"Las Vegas is a very exciting market. Nevada is a very good place from a tax standpoint, very low taxes and no income tax. It depends what the deal is with the stadium, and with operating it, and what the league and Mark [Davis] feel are the opportunities there—if he feels he can fill up the stadium and get enough economic traction there with sponsors and all that. ... I don't know if [gambling] is as dominant an issue now as it was 10 years ago."
The answers all come off so similar that it's hard not to think that there is a running narrative going around for all of the influential owners. The narrative appears to be that the questions to be answered are for whether the fan base in Vegas can support the team, and not the gambling issues from the casinos.
There are smaller markets than Vegas that support NFL teams, but those cities have already established themselves in the league. Smaller markets than Las Vegas include Nashville, Buffalo, and of course Green Bay. With all due respect to Green Bay and Buffalo though, no new cities of their size would have a realistic shot at a new franchise now.
Still, it shows that smaller cities can indeed support NFL franchises when getting the opportunity. The Raiders need to answer the questions about whether the fans in Vegas can support a team too and get the funding situated for a move to Vegas. If they can do that then it seems that more and more of the NFL votes needed to approve a move will indeed come through.
Your move Oakland, I truly hope that you make a good one.