As Las Vegas touts itself as a possible home for an NFL team, owners have quickly shifted their questions from whether the league should have a team in a city best known for gambling to whether that city is big enough to support an NFL team.
Market size isn’t as important to the NFL as it is to the other major American sports leagues, but it does matter to the NFL: The league wants to be in markets with a lot of television households because the majority of the league’s money comes from the TV networks. The official NFL Record & Fact Book lists the Top 100 media markets in America, and that list shows that Las Vegas would be the NFL’s fifth-smallest market, if it had a team.
With 719,000 TV households, Las Vegas is larger than only four markets with NFL teams: Green Bay, Buffalo, New Orleans and Jacksonville. That’s why, as Falcons owner Arthur Blank pointed out, there are some concerns that the city simply might not be big enough to support an NFL team.
However, Vegas does have some advantages over other cities, from the NFL’s perspective: There are always lots of tourists there who might buy tickets to NFL games while they’re in town, and the Vegas market has historically had very strong TV ratings for NFL games. The league, of course, officially pretends that gambling isn’t the reason for those strong TV ratings, but whatever the reasons, Vegas has shown that it’s into the NFL.
Most importantly from the NFL’s perspective, Vegas has a plan in place for a fancy new stadium which would be financed with $150 million from the Sands Corporation and $750 million from taxpayers. If the Nevada legislature approves that $750 million, the NFL seems ready to accept the deal. Vegas is smaller than most NFL markets, but $750 million is too big for the NFL to turn down.