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Just Vegas Baby? Oakland Raiders owner says it's a possibility

By Derek Harper, The Sports Xchange   |   Feb. 6, 2016 at 1:26 AM
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SAN FRANCISCO - Commissioner Roger Goodell continued to offer vocal support to the embattled NFL fan bases in Oakland and San Diego when asked about the possibility of further relocation during his annual state of the league press conference on Friday.

The Chargers will play the 2016 season in San Diego, but still have the option of joining the Rams in Los Angeles for the long term if a new stadium agreement cannot be agreed upon. The Raiders continue to work with Alameda County on a new stadium plan, but funding is a major issue and owner Mark Davis recently visited Las Vegas to discuss a potential venue a few blocks off the Las Vegas Strip.

"Mark Davis has a lot of options," Goodell said Friday. "The league supports both of these teams. We're working with the teams and the communities to find a solution that works for everyone."

The Las Vegas Sands Corp. has proposed a $1 billion domed stadium project near UNLV, which is between the airport and The Strip, and Davis met with Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Davis was at the Media Center on Friday for a press conference formally announcing the Raiders will play a regular-season game in Mexico City against the Houston Texans on Nov. 21. He was asked about the Commissioner's comments that the Raiders have a lot of options.

"Yes, we do," Davis told The Sports Xchange.

Asked if Las Vegas is one of those options, he said, "Yes, it is. I really want to talk about this (Mexico City) game.

"What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," Davis said, reiterating his answer regarding Las Vegas during the press conference.

Goodell was not asked directly Friday about the notion of a team relocating to Las Vegas in the future after addressing it during an interview with Rich Eisen this week.

"It requires 24 of the 32 owners to approve any relocation to any market," Goodell told Eisen. "Obviously there are specific issues that would need to be discussed in the context of Las Vegas.

"But I think it's way premature at this point to be speculating on that. There's no proposals, there's nothing firm in any way. So I think this is something that at some point it may come up. But for right now we're not focused on that."

It is likely that a number of issues beyond a stadium proposal would need to be sorted out before enough NFL owners would approve an NFL team relocating to Las Vegas.

T-Mobile Arena is set to open with a kickoff concert by The Killers on April 6, and a group led by billionaire businessman Bill Foley has formally applied for an expansion NHL franchise. A decision is still likely a few months away, but if Foley's group is successful it would mark the first professional franchise among the four major pro sports to be located in Las Vegas.

The major professional sports leagues have long battled the legalization of sports gambling in additional states or on a national level. However, that stance has come under scrutiny as each of the four major pro leagues have varying levels of financial interests in embattled daily fantasy sports operators FanDuel and DraftKings.

"When it comes to daily fantasy, I think it's a different issue," Goodell said Friday. "There are issues raised that are not raised with traditional gambling. Fantasy football is more than daily fantasy. We have to make sure we're protecting our fans at all times."

Goodell is focused on several hot button items, but the potential of an NFL franchise moving to Las Vegas anytime soon is not one of them. On his near-term radar are player safety issues, the Mexico City game, expanding the number of games played in England along with a potential franchise in the United Kingdom, and determining the long-term viability of the Chargers and Raiders remaining in their current cities.

Davis said he has not considered moving his franchise to Mexico, but knows the NFL is considering an international franchise and said he's "excited to make our Hispanic fan base proud in November."

Ultimately it will come down to dollars and sense for the NFL's owners. If Oakland cannot secure a new stadium deal, then London, San Antonio and perhaps even Las Vegas could be on the table.

"It is very much a priority for us. We want to work to keep our teams where they are," Goodell said. "(Relocation is) something from a business standpoint that becomes a reality. My pledge is to do everything possible that we can to support them."

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