Gila River Gaming Enterprises Might Buy Naming Rights to University of Phoenix Stadium
A casino company might soon hold naming rights to an NFL stadium. Gila River Gaming Enterprises, which owns four casinos in the Phoenix metropolitan area.
Gila River Gaming might soon own the naming rights to the Arizona Cardinals’ stadium, which originally was named Cardinals Stadium and currently is named University of Pheonix Stadium.
Those reporting the rumors state that the chances Gila River buys the right to place its name on the Cardinals’ stadium remains slim, but such a high-profile sponsorship deal would make the tribal casino enterprise a household name.
University of Phoenix Stadium
The NFL venue was opened in Glendale, Arizona (just west of Phoenix) in August 2006. Since then, it has hosted Super Bowl XLII (2008) and Super Bowl XLIX (2015).
University of Phoenix Stadium also hosted the 2007 BCS National Championship Game, the 2011 BCS National Championship Game, and the 2016 College Football Playoff Game. The stadium has been the site of numerous other major sporting events, including the annual Fiesta Bowl, Wrestlemania XXVI, the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup (Soccer), and the 2017 NCAA Final Four.
Both Phoenix Business Journal and Pro Football Talk noted that the Gila River Gaming Enterprises naming rights deal might never happen. What is notable is that any such naming deal was not rejected out of hand, as it certainly would have been a generation ago.
NFL Opposes Legalized Sports Betting
The National Football League, like America’s other major professional sports, have kept any kind of gambling ties at an arm’s length over the decades. Not only would the leagues not locate teams in Las Vegas, but they maintained that they were against sports betting. The NFL, NBA, and MLB lobbied the US Congress to pass the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 1992, a law which went into effect in 1993.
When the leagues first proposed the PASPA law, they sought to ban sports betting in all 50 US states. Nevada, Montana, Oregon, and Delaware each had legal sports betting at the time, so they lobbied to gain exemptions. Nevada’s laws allowed for fully operational sportsbooks, while the other states had more limited sports lotteries. Eventually, those four states had their laws grandfathered in to the PASPA law, but sports betting was banned in 46 other states.
For the sake of fairness, those states were given one year to legalize sports betting in order to receive the same consideration. Those who followed New Jersey politics at the time say the state legislature had the votes to pass a sports betting law, but top leader among lawmakers never allowed the issue to come up for a vote. Casino operators (including Donald Trump) complained at the time, but life went on.
New Jersey Challenges PASPA
Over the past 5 years, New Jersey has tried to strike down the PASPA law in court. With two different legislative iniative, Gov. Chris Christie’s administration sought to legalize New Jersey sportsbooks. The NFL, NBA, MLB, and other associations sued the state and won a series of legal battles. It seemed the leagues’ longstanding stance against sports betting was solid as ever.
Perhaps not, though. In the past couple of years, new commissioners have come to power in pro baseball and pro basketball. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has suggested he was open to reconsidering baseball’s stance on sports betting, while NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been vocal in support of federal legalization of sports betting (though he opposes state-regulated sportsbooks still). Former NBA Commissioner David Stern came out in support of Adam Silver.
Impact of the Las Vegas Raiders
That left the NFL and NHL as the only holdouts. Then the NHL awarded a franchise to Las Vegas, while Commissioner Gary Bettman said his league was less affected by sports betting — and thus he would defer to the other three leagues.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has yet to take a more moderate stance against gambling, except in one major way. Goodell allowed the Oakland Raiders to field a vote among NFL owners on whether they could move to Las Vegas. In March 2017, the NFL owners voted 31-1 to approve the Raiders’ relocation, so the team will become the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020, when they move into their $1.9 billion stadium just off the Las Vegas Strip.
Still, Roger Goodell wagged his finger and said he remained unconvinced that the NFL should associate with gambling interests. The NFL commissioner insisted that Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire owner of Las Vegas Sands, not be a part of the ownership group for the Raiders new stadium.
Gila River Gaming Enterprises Profile
Thus, it is a bit of a suprise that Gila River Gaming Enterprises might be considered for naming rights in Phoenix. Yet, if you are going to have an NFL stadium a few blocks from Caesars Palace, MGM Grand, and Bellagio, it makes no sense to draw a line with Gila River Gaming.
Gila River Gaming Enterprises owns four casinos in the Phoenix area. Those venues are Casino Phoenix in the City of Phoenix, Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino in Chandler, Lone Butte Casino in Chandler, and Vee Quiva Hotel & Casino in Laveen, Arizona. With several gaming operations, the gaming enterprise has the resources to pay many millions of dollars a year to advertise on the Phoenix Cardinals’ stadium.
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