Panel studying Las Vegas stadium plan presented revised numbers

LAS VEGAS -- A day after Las Vegas won a bid for an NHL expansion team, a governor's panel studying a proposed 65,000-seat domed stadium to lure a pro football franchise was greeted Thursday with a pep talk and changing financial figures.

"We are going to find a way to make this work," declared Andy Abboud, a top executive at Las Vegas Sands, the casino company headed by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who is pushing for the Oakland Raiders to move to the city.

There was no talk at the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee work session about whether gambling on pro sports is a good idea.

In fact, some casinos around town have already begun taking bets on how the as-yet unnamed hockey team will score its first goal in its first home game next year at the newly opened T-Mobile Arena, and how many total goals the team will score in its first season.

With the football stadium now projected to cost at least $1.45 billion, committee members dug into projections about a rate of return for private investors, including Adelson and the crucial question of where a stadium could be built.

No site has been selected, despite timelines showing NFL owners would need to approve a Raiders move in January if the team is to begin play in Las Vegas in 2020.

The committee is due to turn over its recommendations next month to Gov. Brian Sandoval, who has the power to call the Nevada Legislature into special session to approve any possible tax hikes connected to the effort.

The panel, along with representatives from the Raiders, developer Majestic Realty Co. and Adelson's Las Vegas Sands Corp., heard again that the project won't cost the public more than $750 million.

Most of that would come from a 0.7 percent hike in the hotel room tax at Las Vegas Strip properties and a 0.5 percent increase in hotel taxes in most of the rest of Clark County. The plan would also divert sales and payroll tax revenue generated at the venue back to stadium operators.

The Raiders remain committed to paying $500 million toward the project, team president Marc Badain said.

Other costs, including possible overruns, would be borne by the private developers, Abboud said.

"I know there's cynicism about subsidizing a billionaire, but you're not," Abboud said, acknowledging questions about the stadium benefiting Adelson, the owner of the Venetian and Palazzo resorts in Las Vegas and several resorts in the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau.

In December, Adelson's family bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the state's largest newspaper, which had been a longtime opponent of taxpayer funding for private projects. The paper declared in a January editorial that Las Vegas desperately needs a new stadium.

"This is not a get-rich-quick scheme," Abboud told the 11-member committee made up of top elected and casino officials, including Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts International. MGM Resorts is a joint owner of T-Mobile Arena.

Adelson is "in a position where he feels that we can ensure financing for a stadium (and) for those cost overruns with as little impact on Nevada taxpayers as possible," Abboud said, "with Sheldon assuming the risk."

A Raiders relocation from Oakland would require support from three-quarters of NFL team owners who have long resisted putting a team in Las Vegas.

Some saw signs that freeze might thaw following the NHL announcement on Wednesday that made Las Vegas a pro sports town.

American Gaming Association President Geoff Freeman said the development signals "a rapidly evolving view of gaming as an important, mainstream segment of the broader economy."

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said his sport is less susceptible to gambling irregularities due to the small volume of bets placed on hockey.