By Alex Dobuzinskis
(Reuters) – The NFL’s Oakland Raiders filed paperwork with the league on Thursday to move to Las Vegas following months of negotiations to build a new stadium in Nevada, officials said.
The National Football League said in a statement the Raiders’ application would be reviewed in the coming weeks by its stadium and finance committees. The relocation of a franchise requires approval from three-quarters of the league’s 32 owners.
Raiders owner Mark Davis, whose late father, Al Davis, helped burnish the team’s outlaw reputation, has expressed dissatisfaction with the aging Oakland Coliseum, in the San Francisco Bay Area, and for much of last year pursued a possible move to Las Vegas.
If the Raiders land in Las Vegas, they would become only the second major sports franchise ever based there. The National Hockey League’s Golden Knights will begin playing in the city in the fall.
Concerns about possible game fixing in the gambling mecca once discouraged sports leagues from placing a franchise in Las Vegas.
But with about 2 million people in the Las Vegas metropolitan area and regulations in place to prevent gambling from tainting competition, leagues have increased interest in the city, said Rick Horrow, a sports business expert at Harvard Law School.
Nevada officials are offering $750 million in hotel taxes to help build a new $1.9 billion domed stadium. The rest of the $1.15 billion would come from the Raiders and private partners that include Goldman Sachs Group Inc
Last month, Oakland officials voted to work with a group seeking to build a stadium there.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf on Thursday said in a statement that the Raiders’ application was “no surprise,” but said the city would try to keep the team.
“Oakland welcomes the chance to show them and the NFL’s other owners why Oakland is the only home for the Raiders,” she said.
But the $750 million in public funding offered in Nevada would “far outpace anything the folks in (California) are going to be able to pull together,” said David Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California.
Raiders spokesman Will Kiss in an email confirmed the team had applied to relocate but declined to comment further.
Last week, the San Diego Chargers, who have also been unhappy with their stadium, announced they would move to Los Angeles.
That decision follows last year’s relocation of the St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles, giving the city two NFL teams.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by James Dalgleish and Leslie Adler)