LAS VEGAS (CBS SF) — The Nevada state Legislature held it’s first special meeting Monday to consider spending $750 million in hotel tax money to help finance a new $1.9 billion football stadium for the Oakland Raiders in Las Vegas.
The battle over bringing the Raiders to Sin City will play out in the legislative chambers over the next few days.
A proclamation by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval to convene the special session says his state’s economy “requires a careful balance of growing and attracting businesses that bring innovative new technologies and diversify our tax base while at the same time supporting and expanding our foundation as the world leader in gaming, tourism and entertainment.”
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The proclamation says “The continued safety of residents and visitors is a top priority for this state and integral to our economic growth” and “an extraordinary occasion exists that requires immediate action by the Nevada state Legislature.”
From a distance, it looked like a Raiders tailgate party on the steps of the Nevada state capitol as supporters of the plan to bring the Raiders to Las Vegas cheered the idea.
“It’s good for the local economy. It’s gonna create more development,” said Eddie Ramirez of Laborers Local 872.
However, the proposal also has its detractors.
“We think it’s a bad idea,” said stadium opponent Andrew List. “Studies have come out time and time again to show that the revenue just isn’t recouped in this type of investment.”
The bill would hike hotel taxes on tourists about $1.50 a night. Billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson would chip in $650 million, but opponents say that’s not enough.
“I am philosophically opposed to having a billionaire coming in and asking for a taxpayer handout when our state is in desperate need of improving our education system,” said Sen. Ruben Kihuen
Kihuen wrote a scathing op-ed calling the plan “a terrible deal” and challenged lawmakers on the floor Monday.
“What if the Raiders leave before their contract is over? And then the people of Nevada, not the tourists, but the people of Nevada will be left with that bill,” Kihuen said during the hearing.
But his voice may not be enough to stop a tide of support among lawmakers.
“I do believe that a professional football team in our city would be a great boon for the economy, a great boon for community as a whole,” said Sen. Aaron Ford.
John Lupo of the group Stay in Oakland came to pass out fliers to lawmakers urging them to vote no on a new stadium. He worries Oakland fans don’t realize just how dire the situation is.
“I think there is so much of the fan base, the Northern California fan base, who doesn’t believe this is gonna occur and it’s not a threat. And I think it is very much a threat,” said Lupo.
In April the Raiders signed a lease extension agreement that keeps the football team at the Oakland Coliseum at least through the end of this year and possibly for two additional years.
But Raiders owner Mark Davis has had a wandering eye in recent years, first exploring the possibility of moving the team to San Antonio and then making a serious bid to build a new stadium in the Los Angeles area and move the team there. That proposal was rejected by National Football League owners at a meeting in January.
If Nevada lawmakers do give the green light to the stadium funding this week, the NFL owners will still have to approve the move with a three fourths majority. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has already said he would prefer that the Raiders stay in Oakland.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, but she said last month that she remains hopeful that a deal can be reached to build a new football stadium in Oakland that would keep the Raiders in her city for the long term.
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