Just a few years ago, Las Vegas would have been the last place you’d have ever imagined the NFL holding its draft. There would have been a better chance of having it on the moon.
But with the Raiders moving to Las Vegas in 2020, with all that public stadium money that the NFL adores, the league is giving the draft to Sin City. The NFL announced Wednesday the 2020 draft will be in Las Vegas.
And immediately, teams and agents are worrying about letting 21- and 22-year old college prospects loose in Vegas for draft weekend.
While it makes sense on many levels to put the draft in Las Vegas, it’s just strange. The NFL has publicly denounced gambling at every chance, yet its marquee offseason event is going to the gambling capital of the United States.
“The NFL draft is one of the most-anticipated events of the year and we are excited to take it to Las Vegas,” commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the Raiders, Las Vegas officials and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to create an unforgettable week-long celebration of football for our fans, the incoming prospects and partners.”
Las Vegas will be a great NFL draft host
The question really isn’t whether Las Vegas will be a good host for the draft. It will be. Vegas hosts many huge conventions. It is a great host to multiple college basketball conference tournaments, huge boxing and UFC fights, and had a Stanley Cup Final there earlier this year. There’s probably no better city to host the draft.
The stunner is that it’s the NFL and Las Vegas partnering together. It’s the same league that has treated Vegas and gambling as the plague for decades. That isn’t in the far past either; in May, Goodell’s name was on a mostly paranoid statement regarding the news that states could decide whether to legalize sports gambling.
Months later, the NFL awarded a signature event to Las Vegas. There’s some hypocrisy involved. The NFL only warmed up to Las Vegas after Nevada gave a record $750 million in tax money to a new stadium. But maybe the 2020 draft announcement is a sign the NFL is ready to embrace Las Vegas. It’s long overdue.
Raiders will get a nice push from draft in Vegas
It’s a smart move for the NFL to put the draft in Las Vegas months before the Raiders play their first game there. It’s a new market for the league, and that will unofficially kick things off.
It wouldn’t be prudent for the NFL to treat Las Vegas as a satellite market, happy to have a publicly funded stadium but not giving a city like Vegas marquee events. If you’re going to move a team to Las Vegas, you need to fully embrace the city.
The draft is going to Las Vegas, and that makes a lot of sense. Now, what about that Vegas Super Bowl?