Chicago Bears chairman George McCaskey said Wednesday that he was skeptical when the Oakland Raiders announced their intention to move to Las Vegas: He thought the city was too small and that gamblers would be too close to players.
But population data and the realization that betting is everywhere changed his mind about taking the NFL to Sin City, he said.
The newly approved move was among a range of topics McCaskey covered in a lecture at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law on the Downtown Phoenix campus.
“We need to keep as much distance from gambling and professional sports as possible,” he said.
“Proper safeguards need to be in place,” he said, adding that he wants to see a league-wide program created to ease concerns. He also said that betting and fantasy football make it possible to place wagers anywhere — not just casinos on the Strip.
McCaskey’s comments came on the heels of the NFL owners’ meeting in Phoenix where they voted 31-1 to approve the Raiders relocation. The dissenting vote came from Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who said that team owners and league officials owe it to fans to do everything possible to stay in the communities that have supported them.
McCaskey, an ASU Law alum, said the Raiders went through a rigorous relocation process and that “Raiders owner Mark Davis will get it right and get the job done” in a city that projects to be as large as Oakland in 20 years.
The Raiders expect to remain in Oakland for three more years before moving to Las Vegas, where there are plans for a $1.9 billion domed stadium.
McCaskey’s talk with students on his experience as a business professional in the National Football League was at the invitation of Glenn M. Wong, executive director of ASU's Sports Law & Business Program.
The Sports Law & Business Program “values opportunities to have leaders from across the sports industry share their unique and relevant perspectives with students,” Wong said.
He added that the chance to hear from an NFL owner — who has come directly from a conference that dealt with franchise relocation, instant replay and game length — “provides students and the ASU Law community with a unique glimpse into the NFL governance process.”
Recognizing sports is big business, ASU Law partnered with the W. P. Carey School of Business and Sun Devil Athletics in 2014 to offer a Master of Sports Law and Business degree. It is the only graduate program in the U.S. that intentionally combines sports law, business and athletics.
McCaskey oversees the operation and management for the Chicago Bears, an NFL franchise that was founded in 1919 by his grandfather George Halas.
A former television reporter and director of ticket sales for the Bears, McCaskey took over operations of the Bears in May 2011 after his brother Michael retired as chairman of the club after 12 years.
The Chicago Bears are valued at $2.7 billion, according to Forbes.com.
McCaskey said while football is a uniquely American sport, the NFL is looking to take the game to an international stage.
“We want to take our game globally and dip into those market shares,” McCaskey said. “We want to grow and think going international is the way to do it.”
The NFL has held regular-season games at London’s Wembley Stadium for eight consecutive years, Mexico City for two years and has plans to play in China in 2018.
While McCaskey said the league is enjoying the additional revenue and fanfare, he foresees myriad legal, tax, labor and logistical problems with placing a franchise in a foreign country.
“Let’s say there’s a playoff game in London and the visiting team wins and flies back to the States with only six days to prepare for the next game,” McCaskey said. “To me, that’s a competitive disadvantage.”
The 90-minute discussion and Q&A session also touched on dipping network ratings.
“The NFL is so successful that any drop in ratings is considered a chink in the armor,” McCaskey said. “Viewership is down, but market share is very much on the up.”
He added that this year’s Super Bowl was watched by more than 111 million viewers.
McCaskey also took time to praise ASU Law, saying his jurisdoctorate degree has made him a much better person.
“It gave me the ability to get to the essence of a problem quickly,” he said, “and it gave me the ability not to be intimidated by lawyers.”
Top photo: Chicago Bears chairman George McCaskey, an alumnus of ASU Law, talks with Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law Professor of Practice Glenn Wong and around 50 sports-law and sports-business-interested people at the Beus Center for Law and Society on Wednesday on the Downtown Phoenix campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now