COURTING TROUBLE

Sheldon Adelson wants to lure the Raiders to move to his Las Vegas dome. What could go wrong?

Obsession
Business of Sport
Obsession
Business of Sport

The Oakland Raiders, one of the most litigious franchises in pro sports, is in serious discussions to move to Las Vegas and play in a new dome financed by Las Vegas Sands, the casino company run by Sheldon Adelson, one of the most litigious executives in the business world.

What could possibly go wrong?

The Raiders, previously of Los Angeles, have a long history of restlessness. Having been denied in their efforts to move back to LA, they are now taking a hard look at Las Vegas. Raiders owner Mark Davis will meet Thursday (April 28) with a key advisory committee in Nevada. A football team in Las Vegas, once seen as a non-starter due to the NFL’s aversion to gambling, is now “getting realer by the day,” according to Los Angeles Daily News columnist Vinny Bonsignore.

Careful cultivators of an outlaw image on the field, the Raiders also have a long history of antagonizing their fellow NFL teams (and their host cities) off it. Under former coach-turned-owner Al Davis—the now-deceased father of the current owner—the team sued the league in 1980 so it could move from Oakland to LA. Then, after the team moved back a decade later, it sued the league for allegedly sabotaging its ability to stay in LA.

The team was also embroiled in contract disputes with former coaches, feuds with former players, and, most recently, paid $1.25 million to settle a suit over pay brought by former cheerleaders. Thus far, Mark Davis doesn’t seem as pugnacious as his father.

Adelson’s legal battles are another order of magnitude. The billionaire behind the Venetian casinos in Las Vegas and Macao, Adelson has faced off in court against former employees, the Las Vegas convention bureau, newspaper columnists and publishers, his own children, and Palestinian activists who say his promotion of Israeli foreign policy violates their rights.

He’s currently suing a Wall Street Journal reporter in Hong Kong for describing him as “foul mouthed.” While Adelson sues journalists, he also employs them, and his secretive purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper last year coincided with reporters being ordered to scrutinize the actions of the city’s judges, including one presiding over a case involving Adelson. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the newspaper has now come out in favor of the stadium project.

The proposed $1.2 billion domed stadium, on land owned by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, would be funded by a mix of private and public funds, presumably including tourist tax revenue. The Review-Journal said Adelson’s company, Las Vegas Sands, would lead a group of investors putting up the private money. Las Vegas Sands didn’t immediately provide a comment on the project.

The stadium could proceed with or without the NFL: Las Vegas doesn’t have a modern venue that can hold big concerts or top-tier college football bowl games, and it wants one. But pro football would be the goal, and a partnership between Raiders and Adelson is one just about any lawyer could get behind.

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