The Oakland Raiders have applied for relocation to Las Vegas.
The long-expected filing was officially announced by the NFL on Thursday morning, shortly after Clark County Commission chairman Steve Sisolak broke the news on Twitter.
Raiders owner Mark Davis said on several occasions he was committed to moving his franchise to Las Vegas, especially after the Nevada state legislature approved $750 million in public funds for a $1.9 billion stadium project near the Las Vegas Strip.
The Raiders had to wait until after their season ended – the Raiders lost their playoff opener at Houston on Jan. 7 – to apply for relocation.
“Today, the Oakland Raiders submitted an application to relocate their franchise to Las Vegas, as is provided for under the NFL Policy and Procedures for Proposed Franchise Relocations,” the NFL said in a statement. “The application will be reviewed in the coming weeks by league staff and the Stadium and Finance Committees. The relocation of a franchise requires the affirmative vote of three-quarters of the NFL clubs (24 of 32).”
A vote could come at the NFL owners meetings in late March. It’s uncertain whether Davis has the votes needed to relocate, but there has been momentum building for such a move over the past several months.
Davis has said that, even if the Raiders are approved for relocation, he plans on playing in Oakland the next few years while a Las Vegas stadium is built. The team has already sent out season ticket pricing to fans for the 2017 season. The Raiders have one-year team options to play Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
The Las Vegas stadium isn’t expected to be ready until the 2020 season.
Placing a team in Las Vegas was a non-starter in the fairly recent past. NFL ownership, buoyed by a record commitment of public funds, has warmed to the idea of placing a franchise in Sin City. Legalized gambling isn’t the hurdle it once was. Moving from a large market to a smaller one isn’t ideal, but Oakland and Alameda County officials haven’t provided the NFL with a stadium plan it considers viable.
The league doesn’t like third parties directly involved in negotiations -- it prefers direct work between team and municipality -- one of a few sticking points with Oakland’s negotiation agreement and stadium financing outline constructed with Fortress Investments and a group fronted by former 49ers and Raiders safety Ronnie Lott.
The Raiders have moved forward on a Las Vegas stadium proposal that includes $750 in public financing funded by a tourism tax and $500 million from the Raiders – that sum includes a $200 million loan from the NFL, and the sale of personal seat licenses and stadium naming rights.
Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson has also committed $650 million to the project if a business deal with the Raiders can be worked out. According to the NFL Network, those negotiations are ongoing.
The Raiders told the Las Vegas Stadium Authority board that they can proceed with or without Adelson. The Goldman Sachs investment firm is reportedly prepared to back the project if Adelson isn’t involved.
The Raiders applied for relocation last season as well. In 2016, they sought approval for a stadium project in the L.A. suburb of Carson with the Chargers. The league approved the Rams project in Inglewood over the Raiders-Chargers proposal. The Chargers were given a year to decide whether to join the Rams in L.A., and exercised that option last week.