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Saturday, August 13, 2022

How the N.F.L Learned to Like Las Vegas, Host of the Draft

LAS VEGAS — Barely half a decade ago, this gambling mecca was still largely off limits to the N.F.L.

In 2015, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo called the league greedy and jealous when it prohibited him from attending a fantasy football event here because it was held at a convention center attached to a casino. It wasn’t until 2020 that the league allowed the city’s tourism bureau to take out an ad during the Super Bowl. To this day, league employees may not gamble while on business trips.

But in a matter of a few years, the N.F.L.’s long resistance to doing business in and with Las Vegas crumbled. Team owners were persuaded that the city’s many casinos were not a threat to the integrity of professional football. They were also won over by the generous public subsidies that helped pay for the Raiders’ new stadium when the league approved the team’s move here in 2017.

The new attitude toward Sin City will be highlighted Thursday when Commissioner Roger Goodell announces that the Jacksonville Jaguars are on the clock, kicking off the pageantry of the draft, the league’s true coming-out party in Las Vegas. In rapid succession, the city gained a football franchise, put on this year’s Pro Bowl and, in February 2024, will host a Super Bowl.

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