The National Football League may now have another reason to take a look at its existing policies on gambling.
The CEO of Station Casinos and former UFC owner Frank Fertitta III is reportedly part of a group interested in buying the Carolina Panthers. The initial reason the NFL needs to re-examine its policy on gambling is the fact team owners approved the Oakland Raiders relocation to the US gambling mecca of Las Vegas, Nevada last year.
The Las Vegas Raiders will likely to start calling Las Vegas home in 2020. Construction of the new stadium just west the of the south end of the Strip should be finished by then.
If you build it, the Raiders will come
It’s no secret the stadium and $750 million in public funding helping build it is why the Raiders are moving. They’re leaving Oakland because efforts to renovate or replace the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum failed. However, it’s a little less widely known how connected this new facility is to Las Vegas’ gambling industry.
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A hotel room tax will fund the $750 million in public money that will pay for the project. That’s gambling money in Las Vegas.
It’s not directly coming from gambling. However, gamblers are the ones paying the tax when they pay for rooms at hotels in the city. Plus, gambling resort executives must have supported the tax from the outset.
Otherwise, it never would have moved forward in a city, and an entire state, pretty much dependent on gambling.
A committee including executives from six local casino companies initially recommended the stadium project to state lawmakers. This includes:
- Caesars Entertainment
- Boyd Gaming
- MGM Resorts International
- Wynn Resorts
- Las Vegas Sands Corp.
- Station Casinos
Plus, Las Vegas Stadium Authority is the stadium’s owner. This group is managed by a board including executives from casino corporations Caesars and MGM.
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NFL anti-gambling policies
The NFL allows teams to accept limited advertising from casinos. However, its anti-gambling policies require those casinos do not have sportsbooks. That means the companies that pushed for the stadium, helped fund it, and sit on the ownership board can’t advertise there.
The National Hockey League‘s expansion Golden Knights became the first major pro sports team to play in Las Vegas, kicking off its inaugural season at the end of 2017. MGM co-owns the team’s arena. And while the NHL previously had a policy restricting advertising from casinos with sports books similar to the NFL, it has since dropped it.
The NFL might want to consider doing the same before it turns it’s back on millions of advertising dollars coming from one of the only industries in its new home that has those dollars to spend.
Corporate partners wanted?
The NFL’s anti-gambling policy also prohibits players from participating in promotions, activities, or events held at casinos. This policy will have the Raiders and its players left out of the majority of everything going on in Las Vegas. Plus, they’ll be ignoring what would otherwise be it’s home city’s biggest corporate partner.
It’s a situation that simply wouldn’t work in any other city or any other industry outside of gambling.
It’s one that’s not likely to last in Las Vegas. Either the Raiders will be on the move again or the league will change the way it looks at the casino business.
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Legal and regulated sports betting
The latter is more likely, considering that while this is a Raiders and a Las Vegas problem now, its headed to other NFL markets fast. The US Supreme Court is a few months away from a ruling in New Jersey’s case against the federal ban on sports betting. Should New Jersey win, all signs point to sports betting spreading across the US over the next couple of years.
Legal and regulated sports betting is headed to just about every market the NFL currently calls home. The NFL is going to need to address it.
When the league approved the move, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said it had no reason to change its anti-gambling policies. The truth is, the league is probably just taking a long, hard look them. They’re just figuring out precisely how to change these policies before the move actually occurs. Unless they think the Raiders can somehow survive in the market without corporate partners. Or that the team wants to turn its back on an industry that was a big part of bringing it there in the first place.
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Another side of the same coin
Of course, Station Casinos and Fertitta’s interest in the Panthers is just another side to the same issue.
It has been suggested Fertitta would have to divest his casino holdings to buy the Panthers. That idea seems consistent with league’s current anti-gambling stance. Goodell has also been quoted saying casino ownership of an NFL team or stadium isn’t consistent with league policy.
Something has got to give here. It’s more likely the league’s policies will be bent before casino interest in the NFL breaks.
Considering the situation with the Raiders, and sports betting across the US, the league’s anti-gambling policies might be in need of a tune-up. Any way you look at it, Fertitta might want to wait and see just what changes are in store before he sells Stations. The NFL could soon cozy up to casinos in more ways than one.
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Photo by David Huntley Creative / Shutterstock.com