NFL bets big on Las Vegas

Written by Ben Blaschke

The most famous gambling city in the world has forked out big money to host its own NFL team from 2020.

Given that Las Vegas is renowned as the home of bright lights and entertainment in the United States, it’s remarkable that Sin City has never had its own NFL team.

But thatʼs all about to change after the Oakland Raiders and owner Mark Davis agreed to relocate on the back of an irresistible US$1.2 billion carrot dangled in front of them by Las Vegas city officials. From 2020 onwards, the Oakland Raiders will become the Las Vegas Raiders – just the second major franchise from any of the country’s “big four” leagues to call the famous casino town home (new ice hockey NHL team the Golden Kings launched this season).

Central to the relocation was approval and funding – shared between Las Vegas, the Raiders and the University of Nevada Las Vegas – to build a US$2 billion state of the art stadium that both the NFL franchise and the university will play out of.

The 65,000-seat domed stadium, which broke ground in November and will take three years to complete, is located on a 62-acre site near McCarran Airport and adjacent to the Las Vegas Strip.

While the decision to move to Sin City in 2020 means another two awkward seasons playing in front of a Bay Area crowd that knows the franchise is preparing to pack up and leave, the PR campaign promoting the sideʼs move is well and truly underway.

In January, the Raiders announced the signing of Jon Gruden as new coach on a massive US$100 million, 10-year deal. Gruden, best known these days as a colourful analyst on ESPN’s Monday Night Football coverage, returns for his second stint coaching the franchise having previously become a fan and player favorite as head coach between 1998 and 2001. He later won a Super Bowl title as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003.

It remains to be seen whether an NFL team in a transient city can attract a big enough following to justify such a massive investment. But when it comes to sheer entertainment, Las Vegas and the Raiders seem to be a  perfect match.