LAS VEGAS - Billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson pulled out of a deal Monday to build a $1.9 billion domed stadium for the Oakland Raiders in Las Vegas.
The move comes on the heels of a team proposal to pay $1 a year in rent and operate the stadium, and it deprives the project of a chief financial backer as officials seek to bring professional football to Las Vegas for the first time.
Adelson played an instrumental role in the effort to lure the Raiders, which eventually grew into a $750 million commitment of taxpayer money to the deal.
He and his family had pledged $650 million -- an amount the team will have to seek from other sources. The Raiders have promised $500 million.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office said the lease agreement submitted last week would have the Raiders shoulder $1.15 billion of the cost of the stadium and accept operation responsibilities and risk.
In a statement, the Raiders acknowledged Adelson’s involvement in the project over the past year and promised to make good on owner Mark Davis’ vow to move to Las Vegas.
Adelson’s withdrawal means the Raiders will go forward with a decision pending from NFL owners who must approve the move.
It also means the team won’t have to ask team owners to waive a rule prohibiting casino operators from having ownership roles in teams.
Team officials said previously they were enlisting investment bank Goldman Sachs (GS) for the project.
The lease proposal would have the Raiders operate the 65,000-seat stadium that would be built at a site yet to be decided, probably just off the Las Vegas Strip.
In Adelson’s terse statement, the chief executive of Las Vegas Sands (LVS) declared that he had been shut out of talks that led to the lease document presented to the Clark County Stadium Authority.
“We were not only excluded from the proposed agreement,” Adelson said, “we weren’t even aware of its existence.”
Sands owns the Venetian and Palazzo resorts and a convention center on the Las Vegas Strip, and several casinos in the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau. Adelson is a big backer of Republican Party causes, and his family also owns the local newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“It’s clear the Raiders have decided their path for moving to Las Vegas does not include the Adelson family,” Adelson’s statement said. “So, regrettably, we will no longer be involved in any facet of the stadium discussion.”
Stadium Authority Chairman Steve Hill, who also serves as Sandoval’s development chief, vowed to “continue to ensure the stadium project is developed in a manner consistent with the clear direction of Nevada lawmakers.”
The plan isn’t only to bring an NFL franchise to Nevada but also to build a stadium for UNLV football “and enhance our state’s core tourism economy,” Hill said.
Sandoval, a Republican who called lawmakers into a special session to approve tax funding for the project, thanked the Adelson family “for their role in bringing a publicly owned stadium to Las Vegas.”
“It is unfortunate that they were unable to come to terms with the Raiders,” the governor said.
He added that terms of the law passed to fund the public portion of the project won’t change, “and the state’s contribution will not increase as a result of this announcement.”
Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak, who has been intimately involved in the stadium and Raiders plan, characterized Adelson’s departure as “a significant setback ... unless Goldman Sachs has someone lined up to step into Adelson’s place.”
“I do not know how the other owners are going to react to this,” Sisolak said.
Any relocation to Las Vegas must be approved by 24 of the 32 NFL team owners. A vote is expected during league meetings in March in Phoenix.