However, the awarding of the franchise is contingent on Los Angeles getting a stadium, financing and community support by Sept. 15. If not, Houston will get the team.
That follows four years of lobbying by the two cities deserted by their respective teams during the franchise free agency boom of the mid-1990s.
But it was hardly decisive.
Most owners liked Houston's plan, which had a stadium and financing plus an owner, Bob McNair, who seemed acceptable to the league. Los Angeles, by contrast, has two competing groups, two stadium plans and less solid financing.
But in the end, it came down to the size of the television market Los Angeles, with 5.5 million TV homes, and Houston with 4 million.
"Based on television contracts and similar factors, the league's first priority should be the re-establishment of a successful NFL franchise in the great Los Angeles market," the resolution said.
Los Angeles was deserted by the Rams and the Raiders after the 1995 season, the Rams moving to St. Louis, the Raiders back to Oakland, from where they had moved in 1982. Houston lost the Oilers to Tennessee after the 1996 season.
"What's changed?" asked Al Davis, who has moved the Raiders north and south in California. "They couldn't get their act together in four years. Why should they be able to do it in six months?"
In other action, the owners voted to keep the Thanksgiving Day games in Detroit and Dallas, turning down a motion by Kansas City and New Orleans to rotate the game.
"The owners said we shouldn't tamper with a great tradition," said William Clay Ford Jr. of the Lions, whose team has hosted a game since 1934.
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed