The NFL will have a tough time turning down Las Vegas if funding goes through

Update: The Nevada Assembly has passed the bill giving $750 million in stadium funding by a vote for 28-13. It will go into law once Nevada governor Brian Sandoval signs the bill on Monday. The tax will be an increase to the current tourist tax and is designed to help pay for the $1.9 billion stadium and a convention center. The Raiders’ potential relocation will be discussed at the owners meeting next week in Houston. 

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Don’t turn down $750 million in free tax-payer money. The NFL in Las Vegas inched closer to reality as the state funding bill passed the first step necessary to provide $750 million in funds to assist in building a $1.9 billion stadium. Simply put, the NFL is going to find it very difficult to turn down that much public money if it is offered. They almost have to take the deal.

There is a chance that the bill doesn’t pass the assembly. 55 percent of Clark County residents actually oppose the tax-payer funded stadium. There is a chance that the owners won’t allow the move. If this bill passes, the NFL is taking the deal. The days of free money for stadiums are going away. There has been too much news coverage, too many opinion pieces, and too many studies that make it extremely difficult to convince the general public their taxes should go to a billionaires stadium. The NFL almost needs Las Vegas money to prove to other markets that if they offer tax breaks they can have an NFL football team too.

Imagine if Vegas offered $750 million to Oakland’s zero dollars and the owners said “thanks but no thanks.” San Antonio wouldn’t go through the steps to offer tax payer money. Neither would current markets like Washington D.C. where the Redskins are looking to build a new stadium. I’m not even talking about giving the money. I am talking about the necessary political steps to even start the discussion.

It would almost be admitting that the NFL owners don’t need the money to build a stadium. Again, if $750 million is being offered, the Raiders should get their U-Hauls and moving vans ready. The NFL can’t afford to set the precedent of leaving money on the table because then no one else would offer it.

Oakland is going to offer exactly zero public funding. If the Raiders are going to stay in Oakland, they need a new stadium. If the NFL turns down the Las Vegas deal and the Raiders somehow some way get a new stadium with no public funding, there’s no reason for anyone to offer money ever. Every state and city official will see that even the poorest NFL owner — read: not poor at all — can afford to pay for his or her own stadium.

The one team hoping this all goes through before the November vote is the San Diego Chargers. If Nevada passes the bill to provide state funding, the Chargers can point and say “look, they have public funding. We deserve it as well.” That will allow the NFL to keep leverage over future markets. No one will be able to say we tried to keep or land a team without tax-payer money. That is why the NFL is going to be backed into a corner. Even if they don’t like Las Vegas as a market, they can’t turn down $750 million in free money. Owners can grandstand all they want, but it wouldn’t be a prudent business decision.