What impact will the Oakland Raiders have on the Vegas casino environment?

Las Vegas

Compared with other US cities, Las Vegas hardly has a history for housing well-known and successful sports franchises.

New York has the Knicks, Yankees, Mets, Rangers, Jets and more recently the Red Bulls; Boston has the Celtics, the Red Sox and the Bruins, and Chicago has the Bulls, Cubs and Bears amongst others.

Vegas is the base for the Golden Knights professional ice hockey team as of the 2017/18 season, and from 2020 it will have its first NFL American Football team when the Oakland Raiders relocate.

A new $1.9 billion domed stadium, which will be the most expensive in the world, is already in the pipeline to be built, following the purchase of a 62-acre lot near the Mandalay Bay resort for close to $78 million.

What remains to be seen is whether the relocation has a positive or negative impact on Las Vegas. Here are some areas which may have the biggest influence on how things turn out.

Fanbase

The Raiders currently play at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum and 53,250 season tickets had already been sold for the September-starting 2017/18 season by late May. This is despite around 1,000 of these tickets needing to be re-sold, as some supporters demanded refunds following the announcement of the move to Las Vegas.

With plans for 65,000 seats, the new stadium will be slightly larger than the current one and it is highly likely that all 10 home matches in the 2020/21 season will be sold out, regardless of whether the existing fanbase is able to continue their loyal support and commute.

It is close to 600 miles from Oakland in California to Las Vegas in Nevada and around 90 minutes on a direct flight. Current round-trip tickets are approximately $60.

The hope for casinos will be that existing fans do make the trip, decide to stay overnight and pay them a visit as part of their excursion.

The relocation will obviously have a positive impact on Vegas tourist numbers, bringing in at least a few thousand California natives who wouldn’t have been paying Vegas a visit otherwise.

Next step of Las Vegas reinvention

However, should supporters decide either to stay at home or catch their return flight almost immediately at the end of a game, general Vegas visitors are sure to turn up in force.

The NFL recently released top-selling jersey numbers by US state for the month of May, with Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch proving the most popular in 14 of these locations. He dominated the west coast in states such as Nevada, California, Washington and Arizona. Only legendary New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was more popular.

Especially for Vegas visitors arriving from outside the US, there is sure to be huge demand to see a sport they are unlikely to have had the chance to watch live much in the past, inside a brand-new expensive stadium and featuring prevalent players.

After all, Vegas is far more than a gambling mecca nowadays. People arrive for the nightclubs, the entertainment and the conventions, with visitor numbers reaching a high of 42.9 million in 2016, according to figures from Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

A survey last year found average ticket prices to see Donny and Marie Osmond at the Flamingo to be $181, while a VIP package to see Britney Spears was said to be $1,040. Meanwhile, people are happy to pay upwards of $60 just to get into a nightclub.

Vegas is used to having big spenders arrive and filling the new Raiders stadium should be straightforward. Selling vast amounts of programmes, memorabilia, snacks and confectionary is probable too.

Vegas and sport

New York was originally the home of boxing, but the 1980 bout between Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes in Vegas went some way towards changing this.

Since, Vegas has hosted the majority of legendary contests. Among them are Sugar Ray Leonard facing Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler in the 1980s, both Mike Tyson showdowns with Evander Holyfield and more recently the last 12 Floyd Mayweather bouts at the MGM Grand. These include the box-office spectacles with Oscar De La Hoya, Canelo Alvarez and Manny Pacquaio.

His upcoming attraction with UFC fighter Conor McGregor is also taking place in Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena, which only opened last year. UFC also recently moved its headquarters to Vegas, highlighting how the sporting landscape is growing in the city.

With boxing and UFC continuing to grow – and an NHL ice hockey team – having an NFL team may be a watershed moment, but is only really a logical next step.

Such sporting events will not harm Vegas visitor numbers.

Taxes

This all looks positive so far, but it is Nevada taxpayers that will be footing the bill for $750,000 of the project.

A reasonable chunk of Vegas funds currently come from taxes on things like hotel rooms, gambling and alcohol, and a time frame of 30 years has been projected for the public subsidy to clear the debt.

Expect further costs down the line to local infrastructure and roads that will need to be paid for too, which is also likely to come out of taxes.

There is obvious pressure on the casino industry, as if gambling figures drop even marginally, this is going to have a notable impact on the public purse and lose Vegas vital money.

Therefore, Vegas is almost relying on the new NFL team bringing in extra visitors to ensure more hotel rooms are stayed in, more alcohol is consumed and more gambling is carried out. Around 520,000 people will attend games each year if the stadium sells out every fixture.

However, the fact the stadium is due to be built on the far south end of the Vegas strip is not ideal for casinos as they are hardly on its doorstep. It will be a long walk between the two.

Furthermore, room tax in resorts on the Vegas Strip have already been hiked 0.88% in recent months. Coming out of the profits of the resorts, this has clear consequences towards their successfulness.

So the city needs the gambling industry to continue doing well to fund the stadium. Yet, it is taxing them more and the stadium’s location isn’t seemingly doing it any favours.

The cards certainly appear stacked against the casino industry on first impressions.