Column: Debating if NFL, NHL moves to Las Vegas is good for sports

GVL - Courtesy of Manica Architecture

GVL – Courtesy of Manica Architecture

Beau Troutman and Josh Peick

Editor’s note: Grand Valley Lanthorn sports editor Beau Troutman and assistant sports editor Josh Peick break down the Oakland Raiders’ decision to relocate to Las Vegas, and the NHL’s decision to add a franchise there.

BT: I received a nasty email the other day.

It wasn’t from a professor, a reader or anything like that: It was from the Oakland Raiders. It read: “Reserve your place in Raiders history. Secure your refundable $100 deposit for the Las Vegas Stadium today.”

Here’s how I read that: “Help a group of billionaires, who are already receiving $750 million in public funds–an NFL record–to build the stadium and line their pockets off of a profit-driven move from Oakland, Calif. to Las Vegas.” No thank you.

I’m a lifelong Oakland Raiders fan, and my beloved team will be moving to the Sin City as soon as 2019 after the relocation was approved in the annual NFL owners’ meetings last month. Until then, the Raiders will continue to play in Oakland while their new $1.9 billion stadium is being built. In the NHL, the Las Vegas Golden Knights will be added as an expansion team next season. An expansion draft will take place this summer. Josh, do you think these moves to Vegas by both major sports franchises is good for their respective leagues?

JP: As a sports fan, I don’t think that franchises popping up in Las Vegas is good for both the NFL and NHL. Football is already the most bet-on sport in the country, moving a team to Vegas will only increase betting and possibly lead to corruption. While the Coliseum was a field in need dire need of an upgrade, moving the Raiders out of Oakland is a stab in the back to its loyal fan base. Just when the Raiders were returning to their early-80’s form and having success, ownership moves to a city that is a tourist town without an established fan base.

Adding an expansion team in the NHL might not seem like a big deal, but having an expansion draft affects every team in the league. Remember when the Bad Boys won their first NBA Championship in the 90s, that team lost Rick Mahorn days after the championship due to an expansion draft. Teams are allowed to protect only a few players, which means core players could be sporting a Golden Knights jersey next season, in a city that makes no sense to house a hockey team. The NHL already has teams in Florida and Arizona that have dwindling fan bases. Why not move a team to Wisconsin? Or Seattle? Or throw another team in Canada.

I don’t see the attraction of building a franchise from the ground up in either league in a city that is built for tourists. Beau, do you think either team will run into problems with sports betting or gambling?

BT: I do. The NFL’s stance on Vegas has shifted dramatically in the past year. Before, commissioner Roger Goodell would have in a team’s face if it was trying to move to Vegas. Gambling was always a concern, and for good reason–Vegas is the gambling capital of the world. However, we live in a new age: With apps like DraftKings and FanDuel, you can gamble on games right from your cell phone.

I believe temptation and gambling concerns are everywhere, not just Vegas. I feel like you could get away with a lot of the same things in say, Miami, that you could in downtown Vegas. I think that gambling is always a concern when it comes to sports. Do I think that concern is heightened for the franchises in Vegas? Yes I do. But I don’t think it’s a colossal shift by any means. Although, there is a Raiders-themed brothel (prostitution is legal in some parts of Nevada) opening up 70 miles away from Vegas in nearby Crystal, Nev. It will be called the “Pirate’s Booty Sports Brothel.” I am worried about that.

The biggest reason I hate this move to Vegas is each leagues’ willingness to abandon their fans. In the NFL’s case, the Raiders are ditching one of the most notorious and loyal fanbases in all of sports. In the NHL’s case, as Josh mentioned, they are ignoring cities much more worthy than the plastic, neon metropolis of Vegas.

I don’t know, what do you think, Josh? Is there any positives that could come out of the Vegas move? Could it potentially work?

JP: I really don’t know if there are any positives from the move. I do not think there is a big enough population in Las Vegas to hold two professional sports franchises. Then the team’s will rely on tourists to come to see a game, but those fans will be cheering for their hometown team instead of the home teams.

At the end of the day, both of these moves are for one reason: Money. Like everything, money is determining factor. Both leagues are banking on tourists coming to games, and the owners will only benefit from two teams emerging near the Las Vegas Strip.

BT: Thirty-one of 32 NFL owners voted in favor of the Raiders’ move to Vegas (thanks, Miami Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross). That’s 31 owners who saw the dollar signs associated with the moves to Tourist Mecca USA.

Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones, seen as the shadow commissioner of the NFL by some, owns a big chunk of a company named Legends, a hospitality-marketing company that will sell suites and sponsorships for the new Las Vegas stadium, according to Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News. How much money will Jones make off of the Vegas stadium? “Millions,” according to Kawakami.

The Raiders’ marketing campaign for the relocation has been, “The Raiders are coming.” Yes, they are. But to the NFL and NHL: your fans are leaving.