Given the NFL’s attitude toward gambling, along with the league’s past statements regarding staging games in Las Vegas, the knee-jerk reaction to the prospect of the Las Vegas Raiders is that it will never happen. Curiously, the league isn’t willing to say that, yet.
“We do not have a comment,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT via email. In 2013, McCarthy had a comment; he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that legalized gambling in Las Vegas would likely keep the NFL from putting the Pro Bowl or preseason games there.
As many have pointed out, the league hardly has had consistent positions when it comes to gambling. The NFL gradually has expanded its presence in London, where betting parlors are as commonplace as sandwich shops, taking a “when in Rome” approach to the cultural acceptance of wagering there. Likewise, the league has embraced daily fantasy football for money, which the federal government says isn’t gambling — but which a growing number of states says is.
Ultimately, it doesn’t have to make sense or be consistent. It just has to get 24 of 32 votes from the league’s owner. The location of any team reflects a collective decision of NFL ownership, and there’s no rule or policy that automatically makes Las Vegas or any other location off limits. Plenty of factors go into the decision regarding whether and where a franchise moves.
One of the factors that likely has gone into the league’s position on the Raiders’ nascent flirtations with Las Vegas is this: The Raiders need a way to squeeze Oakland into helping build a stadium. Slamming the door preemptively on Vegas will make it harder to get money for nothing from the folks who currently are willing to do nothing to keep the Raiders.
So even if the NFL would never approve a move of the Raiders to Las Vegas, there’s no harm in withholding final judgment to see whether Oakland will continue withholding taxpayer money as more and more potential destinations for the franchise emerge.