The NFL is no stranger to gambling controversy. Most recently, players were fined for their involvement with making an appearance at an arm wrestling competition in Las Vegas. Now it looks like the rights to naming Arizona Cardinals’ stadium could be sold to Gila River Gaming Enterprises, a casino company run on an Indian reservation. This comes as a surprise to many, as the NFL has remained a strong opponent to the gambling industry.
The Cardinals’ stadium opened in 2006 as the University of Phoenix Stadium and has held that name ever since. Last month, the Cardinals announce that the university was going to forego its continued sponsorship of the 72,200-seat domed facility, located in Glendale Arizona. Since its opening, University of Phoenix has paid tens of millions of dollars in order to hold the naming rights to the stadium.
Phoenix Business Journal recently reported that Gila River Gaming Enterprises was meeting with representatives from the Arizona Cardinals in order to secure the naming rights for the stadium. Many professional sports organizations partner with casinos or online gambling sites, but the NFL has a very strict policy regarding gambling. As mentioned previously, the leagues anti-gambling policy even prevents players from making promotional appearances at casino events. A notable example of this would be the fantasy event Tony Romo planned to host last year, where the NFL stepped in and forced Romo to cancel the event.
While no official announcement has been made, it is safe to assume that such a deal would not go unnoticed by the league. Such a partnership would surely cause the NFL to intervene, in one way or another, given its strict gambling policy. The only thing that the Arizona Cardinals have confirmed at this point is that the University of Phoenix was giving up its naming rights. The Gila River Group currently operates four casinos in the Gila River Reservation.
Despite the bad blood between the NFL and the gambling industry, this isn’t the first deal of its kind. Last year the Miami Dolphins sold their naming rights to Hard Rock International, a company known globally for its ties to the casino industry. Hard Rock International was previously acquired by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, who owns 7 casinos in the state, as well as a casino in Atlantic City. The league took no action against the Miami Dolphins as the deal was made between Hard Rock entertainment the brand, and, technically, not the casino.
Even more notably, the Oakland Raiders announced at the end of March that they would be relocating to the city of Las Vegas. At that time, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reaffirmed the leagues position against sports betting. Recent league activity suggests that the league may have to reestablish its position regarding gambling sponsorship, at the very least. There is no time table as of now for the Cardinals to make a decision regarding the name of the stadium.