Frank Fertitta would have to divest casino interests, but still a sign of NFL's evolution on gambling
Legal Sports Report

Will The NFL Allow Station Casinos’ CEO To Take Over The Carolina Panthers?

Fertitta Carolina Panthers

Just how much has the NFL evolved on the issue of gambling?

The CEO of Station Casinos and former UFC owner Frank Fertitta III is reportedly interested in buying the Carolina Panthers.

The caveat there, of course, is that he couldn’t be involved in the casino business anymore if he wants to own an NFL team, according to the report.

The NFL and gambling

The NFL has come a long way on gambling:

  • The Oakland Raiders are moving to Las Vegas, the capital of US gaming.
  • Commissioner Roger Goodell, when recently presented with a question about the possibility of legal sports betting in the US, only mentioned integrity concerns and didn’t voice opposition.
  • New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft holds an interest in casinos and sports betting via an investment firm.

That last point makes for an interesting discussion point: What’s the line the NFL has drawn on ownership of gambling entities? It’s apparently somewhere between Kraft’s indirect investment and Fertitta’s position with Station.

The NBA let another Fertitta with casino ties own a franchise

Even if Fertitta takes over the Panthers, it won’t be a new development for US pro sports, whether he divests himself from Station or not.

Tilman Fertitta, the owner of Golden Nugget Casinos and a distant cousin of Frank, purchased the NBA’s Houston Rockets last year. The NBA’s stance, however, is slightly more evolved than the NFL’s, as it is pushing for regulated sports betting. (How much it wants legal wagering if the league isn’t getting a cut of all wagers is a moving target, however.)

The NFL used to…

Even if Fertitta does divest his interest in Station — which operates sportsbooks in Nevada — it would be yet another step forward for the NFL on gambling issues.

Could you imagine the league letting a former casino owner buy a stake in an NFL franchise even a few years ago? After all, the league, not that long ago:

If Fertitta takes over in Carolina, it’s yet another example of how far the NFL has come in a short time on gambling.

Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.