ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson withdrew his $650 million pledge Monday night from the planned $1.9 billion domed stadium to house the Raiders and UNLV in Las Vegas, setting off shock waves from Southern Nevada to Oakland and across the NFL.
But what does it all mean? The following is a primer on the latest turn in the Raiders' planned road to Sin City.
Q: With Adelson's money gone, is the Raiders' plan for relocation dead on arrival?
A: Not quite. But it did take a punch to the gut. The Raiders, who are scheduled to commit $500 million to the project, are now responsible for Adelson's share as well, putting the team on the hook for $1.15 billion. And that's where investment bank Goldman Sachs purportedly enters the picture.
The Raiders have yet to comment publicly on Goldman Sachs as a financier ready to take Adelson's place, but it has been reported for weeks now that the Raiders were ready, willing and able to make the move to Las Vegas with or without Adelson -- because Goldman Sachs was waiting in the wings.
And there is also the feeling that NFL owners are more comfortable with Adelson and his casino connections no longer in the picture, especially because there was a growing feeling that Adelson either wanted a piece of the Raiders or wanted a path to ownership. So if the Goldman Sachs money is the real deal, and at least 24 NFL owners feel more at ease with a casino magnate out of the project, the Raiders might see Adelson's stepping aside as progress, really.
Q: But did the Raiders make an enemy out of Adelson, and wouldn't that hinder business in Las Vegas?
A: Well, as one Las Vegas source told me, "The Raiders don't know what it is like to have him as an enemy. He will spend millions to make them hurt." That is, if Adelson felt wronged, and as reports out of Las Vegas had it, he does feel that way.
The Raiders reportedly presented a lease plan last week that had them paying $1 a year in rent and total control of the venue, which raised more than a few hackles.
As the Nevada Independent's Jon Ralston wrote: "The Sands chairman, known as a negotiator with no mercy, told people he believed the Raiders and their partners-in-waiting, Goldman Sachs, had dealt with him in bad faith. And hell hath no fury like an Adelson scorned. Imagine how The Litigious One feels after letting the Raiders tap into his political juice, after intimidating the Legislature into giving his legacy dream $750 million in public money. And now he is taking his $600 million and going home. 'It's just a matter of how scorched he is going to make the Earth,' one insider told me. (Unrelated note: He does own a newspaper.)"
So even if the Raiders have the money and the votes, they might not have the goodwill of the gambling mecca's godfather; the Silver State's governor, with Brian Sandoval saying he was not happy with the developments and that the Raiders must now assume operating responsibilities; or the local university, as UNLV reportedly felt slighted with stadium availability and markings. At least, not in the immediate aftermath Monday night.
Q: Does this give Oakland new life?
A: Kinda sorta. Ronnie Lott, who is representing a group trying to "save" the Raiders for Oakland, was back on social media Monday night, tweeting, "We will keep working to earn everything we can for @Oakland and @AlamedaCounty communities and businesses and for the @Raiders!"
But the NFL has already rejected the group's plan, saying the finances in it were too similar to previously rejected plans. Any delay, though, in getting a vote for Las Vegas gives Lott & Co. time to refine their plan for the East Bay. And besides, the Raiders still have a pair of one-year options to play at the Oakland Coliseum in 2017 and 2018. The vote is expected to go down at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix on March 26-29.