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MLB Clears the Way for A's Las Vegas Strip Move

The team has been eyeing multiple Las Vegas sites and now Major League Baseball has removed a major hurdle.

Since the National Hockey League's Golden Knights began playing right on the Las Vegas Strip nestled between multiple MGM Resorts International (MGM) properties, Sin City has become negotiating leverage for any team in the other major sports looking for a better stadium/arena deal.

That's especially true for teams based in California, because Las Vegas is an easy flight and a not-too-bad drive depending upon where you live. The National Football League's (NFL) former Oakland Raiders used Las Vegas' interest in building a stadium for the team as a way to leverage a better deal from Oakland.

Since that city wouldn't/couldn't compete financially with what Las Vegas could offer, the team "reluctantly" had to make the move. Realistically, Raiders owner Marc Davis, one of the least wealthy owners in the NFL, likely never intended to stay in Oakland because Las Vegas' deep pockets and the presence of casinos with money to throw around simply made moving too attractive.

Now, Sin City is always mentioned when any National Basketball Association (NBA) team needs a new arena (although it has also been talked about as the potential home of an expansion team). It has also been a target destination for another team that calls Oakland home, Major League Baseball's Oakland Athletics.

The A's need a new stadium and Oakland has not been willing to put up the cash to build one. That has led the team to not just flirt with Las Vegas but full-on jump into a relationship with the city. Oakland's last remaining major professional sports franchise has looked at multiple sites both on and off the Strip and has appeared close to making a deal.   

Now, MLB has removed a hurdle to closing one of those deals that might have caused the team to at least consider Oakland's offer (should a genuine one be made.)

Major League Baseball Lead
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Major League Baseball Waives a Key Fee for the A's

The A's, as of late May, had narrowed down its search down to two sites roughly on the Las Vegas Strip. In one scenario, the team would build a stadium itself. In the other, it would partner with a casino operator (likely Gaming and Leisure Properties  (GLPI) , but probably not MGM or Caesars Entertainment (CZR) , the two biggest players on the Strip, the Las Vegas Sun reported). 

When a team switches cities, Major League Baseball generally charges a relocation fee. In this case, the league has decided that it won't charge the A's should they decide to move, according to a Las Vegas Journal-Review story.

"The fee varies on a case by case basis, but it is estimated the fee would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars range. The Raiders’ relocation fee charged by the NFL was $378 million when they made the move to Las Vegas in 2020. Golden Knights’ owner Bill Foley paid a $500 million expansion fee to the NHL to land the team in Las Vegas. Expansion fees tend to run higher than relocation fees," the paper reported.

MLB Likely Wants a Team in Las Vegas

Not having to pay a relocation fee suggests that the league either wants the team to move to Las Vegas or believes that Oakland has not given it a good reason to consider staying. Oakland is also considered a small market, while Las Vegas is both bigger in terms of potential local television audience, and also is a global city.

Having a team in Las Vegas puts MLB in front of people visiting from all over the world. It also brings the league to a place full of high rollers, spilling over with sponsorship dollars as all the major casino operators want to both bring in tourists to their properties and bring in users for the sports betting apps.

Major League Baseball dropping the relocation fee essentially is the league's way of  welcoming Las Vegas into the league. It may take a few more months for an actual deal to be made, but betting on the Las Vegas Athletics being a thing soon enough is pretty safe money.