Roger Goodell still doesn’t like gambling. And don’t even get him started on brothels.
But neither of those things kept him from jumping in the sack with Las Vegas this week, as the NFL casually voted to put the Raiders in Sin City.
The commissioner said Tuesday night as he wrapped up the NFL owners meeting that he’s still very concerned about the issue of gambling, but that enough other things changed that kept Las Vegas from being the boogeyman it once was.
“I would probably tell you that I think society has probably had a little bit of a change with respect to gambling in general,” Goodell said. “I think we still strongly oppose it in that room, and otherwise, legalized sports gambling. The integrity of our game is No. 1. We will not compromise on that.
“But I also believe that Las Vegas is not the same city it was 10 years ago or 20 years ago. It’s a much more diverse city. It has become an entertainment mecca. It’s the fastest-growing city in the country. So I think when you look at it today versus what it was a decade or two ago, I think it’s a much different city. And they made a very compelling proposal, which the owners obviously approved overwhelmingly.”
That change in attitudes, and $750 million in public money (plus add-ons) made a difference, apparently.
Goodell has previously called gambling his top concern when it came to the integrity of the game. And while a question about the Raiders-themed brothel got a laugh out of him, the specter of gambling still looms large over the move. He made his serious face and talked about the importance of maintaining the “integrity of the game,” while at the same time suggesting the danger of putting 21-year-olds in Vegas on a full-time basis was no more dangerous than anywhere else (and to be fair, Odell Beckham and his boat trip in South Beach underscored some of that for him).
“My experience is that 21-year-olds can find trouble in a lot of different places, so that’s one of the reasons why we focus so much on our personal conduct policies,” he said. “It’s educating players and helping them make better judgments, giving them better information so they avoid problems. . . .
“We’re going to have to obviously keep a focus on that, no matter where our franchises are.”
But this one, obviously, he’ll need to keep both eyes on, even if that means lifting the eye patch.