According to a report in the Phoenix Business Journal, casino operators Gila River Gaming Enterprises will be meeting with representatives from the Arizona Cardinals regarding a potential purchase of the naming rights for the Cardinals’ stadium. News reports of the meeting are raising questions about the NFL’s involvement with a casino operator since the league has been a vocal opponent of gambling.
While partnerships with casinos aren’t a strange thing to see in other sports leagues, the NFL has carefully avoided being directly associated with gambling businesses. The league’s anti-gambling policy even prohibits players from appearing at casino promotional events, which recently resulted in several players being fined for competing in an arm wrestling competition at the MGM Grand in Vegas for a direct violation of the policy. However, recent news updates are sending different signals.
The Gila River Group operates four casinos in the Gila River Reservation. The prospect of an agreement between the Cardinals and the casino operators, even if never fully realized, is seen as a sort of herald to a change in attitudes from the league’s side.
In august of last year, the Miami Dolphins sold their naming rights to Hard Rock International, which was previously acquired by the Seminole Tribe of Florida who own 7 casinos in Florida alone and one in Atlantic City. At the time, Dolphins’ CEO, Tom Garfinkel said that the sale was compliant with NFL’s policy, as it was made between the Hard Rock entertainment brand and the team, and not with the casino.
At the end of March this year, the league’s owners also allowed the Raiders to relocate from Oakland, their home for over 40 years, to Las Vegas, with a majority vote. League commissioner Roger Goodell also stated that they were not planning to impose a betting ban on the Raiders, although he still re-affirmed the NFL are against sportsbetting.